It’s early days, but Japanese star Takumi Minamino‘s (£6.5m) move to Liverpool could be the January transfer window’s stand-out piece of business.
The former Red Bull Salzburg attacker has joined the Reds for £7.25m – an almost laughably small fee in today’s inflated market given his record at the Austrian side.
We have assessed what Minamino has already achieved and what he can deliver for Fantasy managers for the rest of the 2019/20 season.
THE HISTORY AND STATISTICS
Minamino joined Japanese side Cerezo Osaka’s youth team at 12 and progressed through their academy system.
He made his first-team debut in 2012, ending that season with one goal from five appearances.
Clear progress was made over the next two seasons – he scored eight times in 38 matches to win the 2013 J.League best newcomer award – and that prompted a number of European clubs to show interest in signing him.
Red Bull Salzburg won that particular race and Minamino quickly established himself in the Austrian outfit’s midfield before being employed as a winger, on either flank, as a second striker and even a centre forward in later campaigns.
That versatility is one of his key strengths – in the 20 games he played in all competitions for Salzburg this season, he was used in five different roles across the midfield and attack, scoring nine goals and setting up another ten.
Overall in Austria, Minamino’s attacking stats are deeply impressive, with 64 goals and 44 assists across 199 appearances.
He’s also shone for the Japan national side, scoring 11 times in 22 appearances.
The following table – collated from figures for the 2019/20 season so far – highlights Minamino’s ability to both feed off chances and create them.
But what is most impressive is how well he has performed in the Champions League; a competition considerably more demanding than the Austrian Bundesliga.
Although the 24-year-old was already being monitored by Liverpool, he had the good sense to showcase his talents by scoring against them at Anfield in a thrilling 4-3 Champions League loss.
|Mins per shot||Mins per shot in box||Mins per shot on target||Mins per chance created|
Despite being mostly employed on the flanks by Salzburg this season, Minamino’s natural fit at Liverpool could well involve providing cover for (and eventually replacing) Roberto Firmino (£9.3m) through the middle – a position he occupied for the 70 minutes of his debut against Everton in the FA Cup.
That’s certainly the opinion of the coach who handed him his Cerezo Osaka debut, Levir Culpi, who has talked of the need for Minamino to become ‘an absolute regular, not a handyman’ at Liverpool, adding that the Japanese star can be ‘a more determined player’ than Firmino.
The new signing’s English debut, in the FA Cup against Everton, strengthened that notion as Jurgen Klopp started him down the middle, supported by Divock Origi (£5.2m) and Harvey Elliott (£4.5m) on the flanks.
Minamino had 33 touches and enjoyed an 86.4 per cent pass completion rate as he made a promising start to his Liverpool career.
But in the short term, the new signing will be hard pushed to dislodge any of the Reds’ fabled front three from their starting roles, so his versatility should at least guarantee him action from the bench as a replacement for any one of that trio of attackers, or as the more advanced member of the side’s midfield three.
With Champions League duties returning in February, Klopp’s need to rotate his squad could prompt him to start Minamino in a Premier League fixture or two.
And should the Reds go on to win the league title as early as their current healthy lead suggests they might, more consistent domestic action could come his way during April and May – particularly if Liverpool are still in the hunt for a second successive Champions League crown.
Minamino has consistently delivered both goals and assists in his career to date, but his move to the Premier League is a big step up in quality compared to the Austrian Bundesliga.
Then again, his record in the Champions League suggests he relishes the challenges posed by tougher opponents.
Klopp was his usual effusive self when talking about his new signing’s debut:
Super, outstanding. Exactly the player we wanted, exactly the player we wished for. Your first game in a team you don’t know, if it’s a settled team it’s already difficult – this team we threw more or less on the pitch with two sessions together. And then showing this kind of game understanding, football skills are exceptional, attitude is outstanding, led the chasing pack so often in different situations, which I loved.
That love won’t buy him too many Premier League starts for now – unless key injuries work in his favour.
But his versatility should gain him some pitch-time and there is a very real prospect of much heavier involvement if Liverpool continue on their all-conquering way.
And if he is consistently employed in the Firmino role, his FPL classification as a midfielder could mark him out as a late-season bargain offering the potential for explosive attacking returns.
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