Some 40 scouts were at Red Bull Arena last Tuesday to watch Red Bull Salzburg take on Liverpool in the Champions League. Most, it was assumed, were there to cast an eye over Erling Haaland, the Norwegian teenager who has become Europe’s most sought after striker, with Manchester United’s head of scouting Marcel Bout known to be one of those in attendance. Liverpool, though, were looking at another young talent.
Within 24 hours of Jurgen Klopp’s side securing their last into the Champions League’s round of 16, it emerged that a deal had been struck for Takumi Minamino. Indeed, the Japanese international is expected to make the move from Austria to Anfield for just £7.25 million once the January transfer window opens having impressed in both games against Liverpool this season.
This represents an extremely shrewd piece of business for the European champions. Minamino is very much a player in Liverpool’s mould and will give Klopp another option in the attacking midfield positions. The 24-year-old is capable of playing as a central creator behind the striker or in the role of a number eight. He has also played on both wings for Salzburg and even up front at times.
“He can adapt to the modern game,” then Japan manager Vahid Halilhodzic said after handing Minamino his international debut three years ago. “He is scoring goals and is in a position where he is creating goals for others.” With this profile he will surely be a good fit for Liverpool, giving them depth in an area of the pitch that defines Klopp’s side.
Liverpool have also evaluated Minamino’s character, with the Japanese international considered a popular figure in the Salzburg dressing room. He possesses a natural drive and a determination for self-improvement that should see him get even better upon making the move to the Premier League.
This is the sort of transfer that has taken Liverpool to their current position at the top of the English and European game. They have been smarter than their rivals in the transfer market, not always going after the most obvious target, but assessing which players will fit Klopp’s system. Not only that but Klopp’s overall environment too.
Minamino might not be another Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah, but at £7.25 million the potential upswing of any risk attached to the signing of the Japanese midfield is huge. Both in terms of his profile as a player and in what his addition represents, this is the quintessential Liverpool signing and possibly the quintessential Klopp player.