Having rounded off Liverpool’s emphatic 4-0 win against Arsenal on Saturday, scoring the fourth goal of a horribly one-sided game at Anfield, Takumi Minamino is starting to look at home on Merseyside.
After arriving from Red Bull Salzburg in January 2020, the Japan international struggled to find his feet in England. Not only was his debut season badly disrupted by the pandemic, he found himself competing for minutes with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino amid a title-winning campaign in which all three were in excellent form.
Halfway through a stop-start second season, Minamino went on loan to Southampton. While at St Mary’s, he spoke about getting “more confidence back as a player” and, after getting 10 appearances and two goals under his belt, he certainly seems to have benefitted from his time on the south coast.
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Minamino’s goal against Arsenal was his fourth in seven appearances this season, albeit his first in the Premier League. He may still turn out to be a late bloomer at Anfield, not least given how much he’s admired by Jurgen Klopp.
In his programme notes for Liverpool’s meeting with Porto in the Champions League on Wednesday evening, Klopp suggested that Minamino will get more chances to impress in the weeks and months to come. “We have so many players at the moment who are, on a daily basis on the training pitches, earning the right to play in this wonderful team,” said Klopp. “I could pick out a number of examples, but I would like to highlight Takumi Minamino.
“Taki scored for us at the weekend after being on the pitch for a matter of seconds and I promise you there will not have been a more popular goalscorer in our group at that moment. You could tell that from all of our reactions.
“This is, of course, partly because we love him as a person. He has such a warm and generous soul. However, it was far more than just his endearing personality that made us so pleased. It was because of the attitude he shows and the contribution he makes day in and day out.
Without question he is a person who helps set our standards. I cannot praise highly enough the level he shows in training. He takes the maximum possible from each session. He is a coach’s dream.
“Being ready to contribute is a prerequisite for being a member of our group. Taki has been the epitome of it this season, along with others, and it will be an important quality for us going forward.”
Klopp also singled out youngster Tyler Morton who, at 19, made his Premier League debut against Arsenal. “Tyler represents everything that is great about young footballers at our club,” he said. “I know how highly [academy manager] Alex Inglethorpe and the academy staff rate him. What a job they continue to do.
“He doesn’t need any more expectation placed on him, so I am not going to write a love song here about what he is going to do in the game or what sort of player he is and might be. We will see on that and he will write his own story. But it is the person he is that makes him very special.
He earned those Premier League minutes and in doing so set an example to the young players who will inevitably follow him. He is such a credit to himself and his family.
“His job now is to continue to lean in to the best personal qualities that have helped him to this point. That is all: be the same guy who treats each second with the first team as an opportunity to learn and be better.”
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