Could Takumi Minamino be the next breakthrough star for Liverpool?

Jurgen Klopp’s tried and tested approach of slow introduction worked wonders for Andy Robertson and Fabinho… now, at the dawn of defending their Premier League title, could Takumi Minamino be the next breakthrough star for Liverpool?

  • Japan international Takumi Minamino arrived at Anfield in the January window 
  • The playmaker was used sparingly as Liverpool surged to the league title 
  • After a pre-season training camp Minamino is said to have highly impressed
  • Minamino went through same slow introduction as likes of Fabinho before him 

If one thing has gone totally without question over the past few seasons it is the methodology of Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

Under the German Liverpool became champions of Europe and finally clinched an eagerly awaited league title, with Klopp applying the same techniques each season to coax the best from his stars and make Liverpool one of the most fearsome teams on the continent.

It has not always sat perfectly with supporters however, with many recalling the frustrations they felt when £44million signing Fabinho was left on the bench for large spells following his arrival.

Yet the proof was always in the pudding. Fabinho came good at Anfield and is arguably the best in his position in the Premier League, if not Europe. Much the same can be said for Andy Robertson at left back.

And so, as a new season begins, familiar signs are emerging that this famed cocooning and emergence process is happening once more, this time with Takumi Minamino. Sportsmail takes a greater look…

Takumi Minamino’s bright arrival from the bench at Wembley was rewarded with a maiden goal

The signing of Japan international Minamino was certainly an interesting one.

After a quiet summer on the transfer front, Liverpool chief Michael Edwards didn’t blink twice after unearthing the little known fact that the potential-laden Minamino had a paltry £7.25million buy-out clause at RB Salzburg.

Minamino had already thoroughly impressed against Klopp’s red machine in the Champions League, getting on the scoresheet at Anfield in the group stages and putting in a tireless performance in a thrilling 4-3 Liverpool win.

Liverpool moved rapidly to secure Minamino once they learned of his paltry buy-out clause

The deal was wrapped up with such rapid efficiency that fans and football commentators alike had little time to drum up hysteria. 

Minamino arrived, exchanged the usual public pleasantries of expressing excitement to sign and a willingness to get going, and then swiftly got cracking. 

Straight into the Liverpool squad the 25-year-old went, and the hard work started from day one behind closed doors. 

After a show-stopping performance at Anfield, Liverpool players urged Klopp to sign him

Slow and steady

And, since, fans have only seen fleeting glimpses of Minamino.

Liverpool’s frenetic end to the previous season afforded the new boy only brief substitute appearances, following a Merseyside derby debut against Everton in the FA Cup. 

Minamino was given a taste of what is demanded at Anfield, though Klopp stressed it was to be a prolonged period of development for his latest acquisition. 

Only 10 Premier League appearances were recorded, each in fleeting length. Only one came as a start, tellingly in the first game back following football’s coronavirus postponement.

Klopp limited Minamino to just 10 league appearances and one start as he shielded his asset

Versatile 

It was no secret that Liverpool players were already impressed with Minamino before he arrived at Anfield.

Klopp’s senior stars had waxed lyrical about him after facing Salzburg in Europe, and urged their manager to bring him to the club if possible.

Minamino’s arrival immediately presented Klopp with a player of very unique, yet adaptable playing style.

The 25-year-old showed both adaptability and versatility during his spells on the pitch so far

It is sort of thing which keeps managers like Klopp up all night due to excitement. The German himself admitted he wasn’t even sure where to play the midfielder, such is his competency in various areas.

Like Robertson and Fabinho before him, Minamino has been eased very gently into the side, exposed to Liverpool’s fast-flowing ways only on odd occasion.

It would be reasonable to suggest the Japanese star is in line for an even longer transitional period that those who have gone before him, due to the multitude of roles Klopp is sharpening him for. 

The ‘Firmino role’

And one of these said roles could yet happen to be one of football’s most daunting and near impossible tasks.

Klopp has dropped hints on various occasions that he sees Minamino as an alternative to Roberto Firmino, in that he can pick up the same responsibilities of the Brazilian on the field.

It is well recognised that Firmino gives Klopp something that hardly any elite striker in European football provides for their manager. A hearty combination of tireless pressing, defending from the front and attacking intent to boot. All the time looking to link play with creative flair and read the game intrinsically.

Klopp has hinted he is priming Minamino for the arduous task of filling the ‘Firmino role’

It is a huge task, and the sort of stuff which has previously led the likes of Thierry Henry to label him the Premier League’s most complete centre forward.

High praise indeed, and something Minamino will be acutely aware of. Firmino’s boots are huge ones to fill, though Klopp will certainly be looking to offer the Brazilian more rest time now Minamino is on board.

And, it now seems, he is primed to hit the ground running… 

Emergence

Wembley played host to a coming-of-age performance for Minamino, albeit in a brief substitute appearance.

Hard grind throughout the lockdown period and determined work during Liverpool’s pre-season camp in Austria looked to be bearing fruit.

Inside the national stadium the playmaker entered the fray as Liverpool trailed and immediately showed a spark.

It was noted by Liverpool players and staff how hard Minamino worked during pre-season

Minamino has now settled properly within the squad, which helps on-field performance

Working on autopilot, Minamino’s hard work behind the scenes looked to have given him an innate understanding of the positions he needed to take up.

He harried the Arsenal backline as a result and, with the helping hand of fellow sub Naby Keita, picked the Gunners apart at the seams.

Minamino helped instigate the start of play which led to Liverpool’s equalising goal alongside Mo Salah and Firmino.

He acted as the pivotal cog in the incisive movement to bring the ball through the Arsenal line, exchanging deft passes with his two team-mates before going on to finish off the move and put the ball in the back of the net himself.

It was exactly the kind of dynamism from the bench Klopp has been craving, and it certainly posed the question of whether Minamino had been introduced too late.

Liverpool now hope Minamino will emerge in the same manner as Andy Robertson and Fabinho

Liverpool’s fitness proved superior and, had the Japanese star been on the pitch for longer, Arsenal’s already heavy legs would most likely have buckled again.

As it transpired Liverpool lost the lottery of a penalty shootout, but Klopp gleaned much of the exciting information he needed.

Minamino’s transitional process is almost complete, and the reigning champions could have quite the surprise package in their ranks this season. 




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