The transfer of Takumi Minamino to Liverpool was seamless.
The deal confirmed in December; completed on the first day of January, all for a measly fee of £7.25m. Like a number of deals brokered by Michael Edwards and co. in the last few years, it offers substantial benefits on both a sporting and – perhaps more so than any previous signings – a financial level.
With more than half the club’s 700m global fan-base situated in the Far-East, the marketing possibilities of such a signing are endless. Despite the club vehemently denying the signing being solely market driven, it no doubt outlines the global outreach the club have managed to tap into following their recent European and [expected] Premier League success.
Given the nature of the deal and the period of integration which comes with such a signing, the best of Minamino’s Liverpool career is naturally not in the immediate future. Despite this, it offers some explanation as to why the 25-year old has been used as a sporadic, rotational option since his debut in January. A bright Merseyside derby debut, followed by a handful of cameos against the likes of Shrewsbury Town and Wolverhampton Wanderers, have stirred up much intrigue amongst fans as to what the 25-year old can bring to the side.
Mirroring previous signings during Klopp’s tenure, this integration period that Minamino currently finds himself in consists of familiarising himself with both the city and the tactical demands of playing under the German. For some, this period takes longer than others, but in Minamino’s case the blueprint of his former side RB Salzburg will have undoubtedly prepared him for such a move. Adopting a style similar to that of Liverpool – a cocktail of intensity; attacking fluidity and positional versatility – Salzburg have flourished into one of the most exciting teams in Europe.
This mirroring between RB Salzburg and Liverpool and Minamino’s consequent tactical understanding, has been clear to see in his performances so far. Following the 25-year old’s Premier League debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Klopp explained “For him it’s still a new environment with a new team, and then really adapting,”
“From a tactical point of view, it was an outstanding game. That’s what we see in training.”
This tactical intelligence is something that was evident prior to his move to Salzburg in 2015. It’s believed the Austrian club tracked Minamino for nearly 18 months; seeing him contribute to 26 goals in 85 appearances, along with being crowned the J-League’s ‘Rookie of the Year’ in 2013.
Still only 19 at the time, Minamino was picked up for a fee of around £750,000 in January 2015. Despite a tough initial transition to life in Austria, his influence began to steadily improve.
Coupled with Salzburg’s dominance in Austrian football and their emergence on the European scene, Minamino hit back-to-back double figures for goals and assists in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. Upon his departure in December, Minamino had notched up 64 goals and 44 assists in just under 200 appearances for the club. This, not mentioning his 11 goals in 22 games at international level for Japan.
In a recent interview, Minamino explained how compatriot Shinji Kagawa gave glowing references of English football and Jürgen Klopp in particular. Kagawa is widely regarded as the greatest ever Japanese export, and it’s arguable that he wouldn’t have had the career he had without the influence of his “father-figure” Klopp.
As a result of his performances and consequential move to Liverpool, there’s a growing consensus amongst the Japanese people that Minamino can spearhead the country’s new generation.
Being the first ever Asian player to represent Liverpool, the club and Minamino’s profile is set to grow exponentially in the Far-East. This, despite already being home to over half of the club’s 700 million global fan-base.
Another interesting aspect of Minamino’s arrival is how it complements the club’s expected new multi-million kit deal with Nike. Nike, who dwarf New Balance’s influence in the Far-East, will offer yet another avenue of commercial growth for the club with aspects such as shirt and ticket sales.
With their odyssey for success continuing on three fronts, Minamino won’t be short of opportunities in the Liverpool team between now and the end of the season. His positional versatility, coupled with the obvious quality shown at Salzburg, will do little to harm the rest of his bedding in stage as well his long-term future with the club.
Featured image by: Alex Metcalfe.