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Who Is Takumi Minamino? Meet Liverpool's New Japanese Star

“Super, outstanding, exactly the player we wanted. It was his first game in a team that he doesn't know, he had two sessions with us but showed an understanding of our game and his football skills and attitude were outstanding.”

As debuts go, Takumi Minamino couldn't have asked for a more difficult one, but Liverpool's new Japanese star received warm praise from boss Jürgen Klopp at full-time after his performance against cross city rivals, Everton in the FA Cup.

 

Having only arrived a week prior, the $11.4 million steal from RB Salzburg immediately hit the ground running – his time in Austria was spent in a system that almost matches that of Liverpool.

Impressing in the Champions League, the Reds saw a player who possesses all the abilities and ceiling reach that has made them so extraordinary in the transfer market of late.

The 24-year-old is predominantly a left winger, but can also play centrally as a second striker or upon the right flank, his style screams a Klopp player and an initial showing at Anfield backs that up.

Even though the new arrival was asked to play in a heavily rotated side, he was still able to showcase his potential in Red.

A number of clever runs showed his keenness to get in behind the opposition backline, while his linkup play with the forwards around him gave an indication that at full strength, Klopp's Liverpool have acquired another forward in the style of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino, while retaining his own individuality.

Nine goals and 11 assists over the half-season with Salzburg undoubtedly brought him to the attention of many, but with Liverpool the Japan international should feel immediately at home.

With Naby Keïta and Sadio Mané, the winger-come-forward has teammates who know how the transition from Austria to England works – Mané direct from Salzburg to Southampton, while Keïta went via relation, RB Leipzig, in Germany before his move to the Premier League.

All have the identity of former Leipzig sporting director Ralph Rangnick, who now serves as the head of sport and development at Red Bull GmbH, and it is something Rangnick is well aware of.

"It's definitely no coincidence that Klopp has four former players of mine because it shows that we are, in fact, looking for the same kind of players, with the same assets, with the same mentality."

"The style is very similar to Liverpool's, It's proactive - high pressing and counter-pressing. Once we have won the ball back we don't want to waste time by square or backwards passes.” Rangnick told Sky Sports after the Reds’ deal was announced.

Versatility is key for Liverpool and the Osaka native certainly provides that. Occupying central areas his first thought is to move the ball forward, quickly – by using the left flank either by virtue of a storming run, or by picking out overlapping players.

This worked phenomenally well for Salzburg in the Champions League, and now that asset can provide a key pass for Andrew Robertson, or allowing Liverpool to continue their trademark fast breaks with a forward pass straight into the path of Firmino or Salah.

How Liverpool use their latest arrival will be interesting to watch, Minamino brings another attacking option into a squad filled with similar talent, but crucially each individual brings their own elements.

Klopp has experiments at times with a 4-2-3-1 formation, a favorite of the German while at Borussia Dortmund - but so far on Merseyside the tactician has found more success with his robust 4-3-3 setup.

The Japanese winger would allow Klopp the extra freedom to try the bank of three behind a central striker.

Mané, Firmino and Minamino behind a central outlet of Salah could give opposing defenses nightmares, while also offering a genuine alternative to their current front three.

While this has been briefly tested at times with the presence of Xherdan Shaqiri, the arrival of Minamino gives the system an extra dimension.

With Liverpool pushing hard in three competitions, while already capturing two this season, the ability to rotate in a player with the quality of Minamino may just give the Reds the extra edge needed as they chase their first league title in 30 years.

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