Before the transfer window had even officially opened, football fans were crediting Liverpool with having pulled off the signing of January.
While a €7.25m signing of a Red Bull Salzburg attacker (that wasn’t Erling Haaland) may have not been the blockbuster deal Reds fans were after, the world champions were once again doing some smart business.
Anyone who witnessed Takumi Minamino in the Champions League will have seen his undeniable quality – with a sumptuous volley at Anfield the highlight. Impressing in all six group stage games, and already valued at approximately £20m, the arrival of the versatile Japanese international for ‘peanuts’ was seemingly a great deal.
But having been at the club for almost a month now, Minamino has made two appearances, one of which was a rather tepid Premier League debut against Wolves last Thursday. With many fans overwhelmingly excited by the prospect of another attacking dynamo in Liverpool‘s ranks, now is time to take stock, and plead for patience.
While Reds fans may enviously look at the immediate impact former teammate Erling Braut Haaland has had at Borussia Dortmund – scoring five times in just two substitute appearances – we need to cut Minamino some slack. Transitioning from the lukewarm waters of the Austrian Bundesliga to the dicey waves of England’s top tier is not an easy task, especially when you’re trying to break in to the world’s best team.
This was abundantly clear at Molineux, where Minamino – coming on for the injured Sadio Mane – looked simply out of his depth. The 25-year-old looked unnerved by the big stage, often choosing the simple five-yard pass to Jordan Henderson rather than looking forward. The attacking midfielder/wide man/false nine/whatever the hell he really is, was guilty of consistently losing possession, exhibiting the first touch of a man who hasn’t played a great deal of football lately.
And he hasn’t. In fact, the Japan attacker played his final game for Salzburg against Liverpool on 10 December, and has only played little over 130 minutes of first-team football since.
So trying to conquer the mighty trio of Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino is perhaps a bridge too far.
But we must resist the temptation to judge Minamino too quickly. The modern world of football moves at such a tantalising pace that players, and managers alike, are often disregarded almost as soon as they have come through the door. If they don’t do an ‘Erling Haaland’ on their debut, then they are considered to have failed – which is a quite ludicrous notion.
And we must remember who is in charge at Anfield. Undoubtedly one of the key factors in his move to Merseyside, Jurgen Klopp is the perfect man to get a tune out of Minamino. The German has a history of easing talent in with the likes of Fabinho and Andy Robertson having to wait months before their consistent inclusion in the starting lineup. And look how well that turned out.
Not only is Minamino adjusting to life in England, but the former Salzburg star is still finding out what his best position is. Klopp has hinted at Minamino playing in midfield, but he’s just as assured in wide positions, as well as even infrequently being used as a deep-lying striker at the Red Bull Arena.
With Liverpool’s record-breaking campaign seemingly showing no signs of halting anytime soon, we must offer Minamino some breathing space. A long-term injury to Mane, or any of the other front three, may thrust the 22-time international in to the limelight, but we simply have to contain our expectations.
Minamino’s 64 goals and 44 assists in 199 games for Salzburg speaks for itself, but to make sure he replicates that at Anfield, we must afford him time.