Deals like the potential Takumi Minamino signing are exactly why Liverpool are the Champions of Europe today. Deals such as these are why they will soon be the Champions of England as well. It represents everything that is wonderful about the club and its sound recruitment abilities. They deserve immense credit for that.
When the likes of Juventus, Real Madrid, and Manchester United have been after Erling Braut Haaland, Liverpool are doing something different. Napoli were being linked with a move for another RB Salzburg star in Dominik Szoboszlai, but Liverpool have silently taken a dip and signed an immensely talented player for a very discounted fee.
The fact that no one knew about Minamino’s deal is a big sign. It was a silent assault and happened a day after the Reds’ win away to Die Mozartstädter on Tuesday. In the 24-year-old, Liverpool are getting exactly what they need in a potential new signing.
When Jurgen Klopp got Xherdan Shaqiri from Stoke in the summer of 2018, it was seen as a low-risk and a potentially high-reward signing. That was largely because of the £13 million fee. Minamino would arrive for an even lesser fee and play more than Shaqiri has.
The most impressive bit about the Japanese is his work rate. It isn’t long ago that Klopp had kept a certain Ivan Perisic away from the first-team due to a lack of graft from the Croatian at Borussia Dortmund. A player like Minamino would never, ever give these problems.
He has that trademark Japanese graft about him. A look at some modern-day icons of the Japanese game would show what the ‘Japanese graft’ is. Makoto Hasebe at Eintracht Frankfurt or Shinji Okazaki during his Leicester days- they have that zero self-indulgence about themselves. Minamino is unselfish and workman-like. If he thrives, the team thrives.
This allows him to be versatile enough on the pitch. Under Jesse Marsch this season, he has been used in a variety of positions. He is playing usually on the right this season, but has often played down the left or in the attacking midfield too. In Salzburg’s game against Polten, he also played upfront.
Despite being used in so many positions, he has contributed to 20 goals in 22 games in all competitions. Last season, he was usually a striker. In 13 games while playing upfront, Minamino had a tally of four goals and three assists. Playing in the number ten position, he had an involvement in seven goals and five assists while featuring in 15 games.
Going as far back as his time at Cerezo Osaka, Minamino was just as versatile. In free-flowing systems, Minamino has grown into a very technically sublime player too. The systems have brought the best out of him.
In the Champions League this season, he did complete 1.5 dribbles per game. But he completed 2 key passes per game, helping Erling Haaland thrive. He completed 1.2 tackles per game- a sign of how his graft combines very well with creativity. And he doesn’t have problems with being decisive in the final third.
All that would strike a chord with Edwards’ recruitment strategy. There would be no radical change in playing style for the Japanese. There would continuity and the player wouldn’t have to make a drastic adjustment too.
Jesse Marsch’s tactics at Salzburg rely on quick movements of attacking players. The transition from Marco Rose to Marsch has been smooth, even though Rose relies on keeping the central areas firm. It has technically supreme players like Minamino, Hwang Hee-chan, Szoboszlai and Enock Mwepu.
His past records and versatility will ring bells for Edwards too. Because all of it is very reminiscent of a certain Roberto Firmino- a player Klopp wanted at Dortmund as well. The Brazilian would play as the unrelenting and tireless attacking player in any position. At Anfield, he is the glue to getting the Liverpool attack work.
He comes deeper and overloads the midfield, makes late runs forward and often gets at the end of cutbacks. Him coming deep allows Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to come centrally and take the burden to cut inside too often off them. And without Firmino, Liverpool often struggle to get control of midfield let alone getting the attack play smoothly.
The idea of being ‘without Firmino’ would evaporate once Minamino comes in. It was Firmino who had a hand in changing the UEFA Super Cup final against Chelsea. Without him, Chelsea were stamping their authority in midfield. Firmino came on, adding an extra number in midfield and nullifying Chelsea. This is a key part of Klopp’s system at Liverpool.
And in Minamino they have a player who fills the right gap. He takes the weight off Firmino’s shoulders. He fits right into the system and the attitude that Klopp needs. And for a £7.25 million fee, a deal as proficient as that would be invaluable.
When others would have gone for more flamboyant signings, Liverpool have done the job when no one knew. They’ve stayed away from the obvious options that the other powerhouse clubs have eyes on. This approach has been reaping rewards for them. In Minamino, they are doing another deal which is rings perfection on so many levels.