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There are performances of opposing players that are remembered for a long time. However, it is not common for the man in question to go on to sign for the team he impressed against soon after.
Yet that is exactly what happened in the case of Takumi Minamino, who joined Liverpool in January 2020.

Two years ago this week he was part of a Red Bull Salzburg side that scared the Reds in a Champions League group match at Anfield.

Liverpool took a 3-0 lead, but were later reduced to 3-3 largely thanks to Minamino’s efforts. Mohamed Salah then scored to secure points for the home side, but it was the Japan international who made the biggest impression on the evening.

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He was involved in almost everything the visitors did in an offensive sense that night. Of Salzburg’s 10 shots, Minamino took three himself, prepared three for his colleagues – including assisting Erling Haaland for the equalizer – and played the penultimate pass before two more goal attempts .

By taking good positions between the lines, often just behind Fabinho, he was able to receive the ball 29 times and make 25 passes himself.

Minamino’s work off the ball was also impressive, with his total of 34 presses just one short of the total recorded by defensive midfielder Enock Mwepu (now from Brighton), and his 11 in the final third were the most common for his team too.

It’s no wonder the Liverpool players wanted their club to add him to their squad after seeing him in the flesh.

They didn’t know at the time that Taki had been on the Reds’ radar since 2013, when he was a teenager and represented Cerezo Osaka in Japan. His performance at Anfield may have resembled his in-person audition for a move to the Merseryside, but he ticked the statistical boxes that Liverpool have considered important for years.

And when it became clear that Minamino’s release clause was set at a very modest £ 7.25million, it was obvious his move to England was inevitable.

Circumstances have dictated that it has not been easy for the 26-year-old to show the best of his talents on a regular basis since joining Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp has a reputation for giving new hires enough time to get used to the way his team play before regularly pushing them aside.

We’ve seen this with Andy Robertson and Fabinho in the past, and Ibrahima Konate finds his opportunities limited at the start of this season.

But Minamino’s progress in the squad has been halted by the global lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, even before considering the quality of the players he is fighting for a place in the Liverpool squad.

However, if he failed to score or assist a goal in the 494 minutes of playing time he saw in the second half of the 2019/20 season, his record in the 13 the past few months have been much more encouraging.

After appearing in the second half in Liverpool’s 5-1 midweek win at Porto, Minamino has made 19 appearances for the Reds since the start of last season.

As many of them have been as a substitute, his time on the pitch stands at 859 minutes, which equates to about nine and a half full games.

To have scored six goals and assisted two during this period, although it must be admitted that he has not always faced the toughest opponents, is not insignificant.

Minamino has also maintained his defensive importance, as evidenced by the fact that he averaged the most pressure per 90 minutes of any Liverpool player in the league and in Europe last season (per FBRef).

He may have only been able to show his abilities in flash for the Reds, but Minamino is starting to prove his current teammates were right when they thought the club should take him from Salzburg.


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