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Will Takumi Minamino be a Success at Liverpool?

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Minamino

The Premier League leaders have leveraged their relationship with Red Bull Salzburg again by securing the signature of Japan international Takumi Minamino. After winning the Champions League, the Merseyside champions refrained from entering the transfer market and had a quiet spell before the start of the Premier League campaign.

With Minamino available for a steal £7.25m, Klopp wasted no time and got the 24-year-old to put pen to paper to secure his services to the club, but with such a plethora of talent available to the club will the Japanese midfielder be a success at Liverpool?

Where are all the world-class Asian players?

Whisper it quietly but in some ways, Asia remains the last continent still failing to produce world class players on a regular basis. Whether it’s that they’re still a decade or so behind in terms of coaching and facilities or whether it’s that Asian players just haven’t been given the chance, their presence at Europe’s top clubs are few and far between.

Yes, Shinji Kagawa has had an excellent career at Dortmund despite that disappointing spell at old Trafford and Heung-Min Son has been brilliant at Tottenham for a while now, but that’s not many examples of top-class players from a continent that loves the game.

There may however be a new member of that club very shortly and at Liverpool, under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp and surrounded by world-class players who can help him become even better, Takumi Minamino has every chance of being talked about as one of the sport’s most exciting talents.

How did Minamino get here?

The 24-year old has spent the last four years as a winger or attacking midfielder for Red Bull Salzburg. 199 appearances for the Austrian club yielded 64 goals and 44 assists, an extremely credible return, even though some may be quick to point out that standards in Austrian football aren’t particularly high.

But you can only do well against the teams you’re up against and it should be remembered that he netted twice in six games in the Champions League this season, one of those at Anfield as part of a remarkable comeback from 3-0 down to get it back to 3-3.  in what was one of the more entertaining matches of the Champions League so far this season.

Obsessed with football since an early age, he often speaks of the 2002 World Cup (jointly hosted by Japan, of course) as a major influence in his career. That was the World Cup of the original Ronaldo, the Brazilian at the peak of his career and elected Player of the Tournament.

Minamino was to idolize the Brazilian, imitating his moves as best he could and watching hours of videos to understand how he became the player he did. There will never be a player quite like Ronaldo ever again – Minamino is currently a long way away from him in a physical sense as much as anything else – and they play in different positions, but watch some clips carefully and you can see the influence of the former Barcelona man on Liverpool’s new signing.

Like most young players, his youth years were spent at his local club, in his case Cerezo Osaka, where players in the senior team included the aforementioned Kagawa. He reveals that training sessions were gruelling and it wasn’t unusual for players to leave the pitch vomiting but he’s a better player for them and his pace and stamina can be partly put down to those torturous afternoons at Osaka, however much they hurt at the time.

85 appearances over two seasons saw him score an impressive tally of 17 goals for one so young and having shown the world of football what he could do, it was time to move on.

The highlights of his career at Red Bull Salzburg were a semi-final appearance in the Europa League where Marseille eventually got the better of them in the 2017/18 season and a hat-trick over Rosenborg in the Champions League in 2018/19. It was arguably these performances with the eyes of the world watching, rather than those in the Austrian League, that really got the scouts excited.

The Liverpool Move

In an era where clubs think nothing of dishing out 80 million on a centre-back just because he plays for England (Harry Maguire, of course) and where a teenage forward with one season of professional football under his belt goes for 114 million (Joao Felix), imagine how excited everyone got when they found out that Minamino , thanks to a release clause.

Forwards are more expensive than other players at the best of times and at 24 he has the double benefit of experience under his belt and plenty of years ahead of him. No wonder Liverpool couldn’t believe their luck when he opted for them over other suitors.

He arrives in January and crucially, he won’t be cup-tied in the Champions League thanks to UEFA’s new rules.

Where does he fit in at Anfield?

To start with, the answer is probably: on the bench. The holy trinity of Salah/Mane/Firmino were the ones  title last spring and who have got them in a position where the Premier League is theirs to lose. They’ll remain Jurgen Klopp’s preferred front three and probably the ones who, barring injury, play the big games.

But that’s not to say that Minamino isn’t likely to get his fair share of game time. It was a minor miracle that those three plus Dirock Origi were just about the only forwards that Klopp used when winning the Champions League last season and he’s unlikely to be quite that lucky on the injury front once again. There are some  on offer for this year’s edition and you’d be pretty foolish to rule out Liverpool defending their title.

Minamino’s big trump card might be his versatility. He’s unlikely to play in the central role that Firmino excels in but he can certainly play on either wing. That means that the absence of Salah and Mane could see him feature out wide, while if it’s Firmino who doesn’t play, Salah could easily occupy the central position as has been the case in the past, allowing Minamino to slot in at Salah’s regular position on the right. 

Or is he just limited to a place as one of the front three? Klopp himself suggested that with good passing skills, pace and mature positioning, he may yet also thrive as a ‘number eight’, the more advanced of a middle three. That seems a little less likely in the near future because of the extra responsibilities from a defensive standpoint but it may certainly be an option in a couple of years’ time.

But before getting too excited about it all, it’s worth suggesting it probably won’t be plain sailing from the word go. Minamino will have to improve his English, adapt to a league where every week there’s a team gunning for your blood and go through the experience of not having many minutes on the pitch at times, something he hasn’t been used to over the past few years.

But if his pacy runs, accurate finishing and dribbling are anything to go by, he may be just the sort of player to be Salah’s natural successor. These are exciting times not just for Liverpool but for Japanese football, too.

Ditching a corporate job to follow a dream isn’t easy, but when football comes calling, who can say no? Been following the beautiful game since 1998. Liverpool addict, F1 fanatic!

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Expert claims Liverpool’s Nike deal could generate £100million windfall a season

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Liverpool-Nike

Liverpool’s Nike deal could be worth a whopping £100million per season

Liverpool could earn as much as £100million per season from the Nike kit deal, according to a sports marketing expert. (h/t Evening Standard)

The Reds signed a multi-million dollar agreement with the sporting apparel giants to sponsor their kits from the 2020-21 season.

The kit deal, which comes into effect from June 1 this year, is said to be worth around £30million-a-year, guaranteed. This is £15million less than the offer made by current manufacturers New Balance.

Liverpool Nike

Added benefits

The key to Nike beating New Balance is them offering Liverpool 20% royalties on the sales of merchandise. This should see the revenue increase dramatically. (h/t Liverpool Echo)

This coupled with Nike’s market share will ensure income and global reach is a win-win for the Merseyside club as it is expected to generate upwards of £80million a year.

Sports marketing expert Alan Seymour, however, believes that the figures may even be on the lower side and has credited Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group for securing the lucrative deal. (h/t Evening Standard)

“We’re led to believe that the commission is going to be up to about 20 per cent so, in terms of actual value, when you equate and add in the way it’s been structured… when you start to add all these things together then we’re talking, I would suggest, in excess of £80m and upwards to the £100m value.”

‘The deal that Liverpool have done with Nike is a brilliant starting point, it will evolve from there and there will be lots of things that happen alongside it.

Seymour believes that Liverpool will further benefit from being associated with celebrities under the Nike banner. Liverpool’s deal with Nike is likely to surpass Manchester United’s current record of £75m-per-year with Adidas.

More Liverpool News

From being dropped by Adidas in 2012 to being courted by Nike in 2020, The Reds have come a long way in their clout to attract the best. Liverpool are currently on top of the Premier League. Success both on and off the pitch doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon.

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Liverpool plotting move to sign this Arsenal backroom staff member

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Gary O'Driscoll

Liverpool target Arsenal’s head of medical services – Gary O’Driscoll

Liverpool have identified Arsenal’s Gary O’Driscoll as the leading candidate to replace the outgoing Andrew Massey. (h/t Daily Mail)

Massey who is the current head of medical services at Liverpool will leave the club on March 1st to take up a position at FIFA.

Having been at the club for almost seven years, Massey has played a key role in the Reds being one of the fittest teams in the league.

O’Driscoll is widely recognized as being one of the best in his field and Arsenal are determined to keep him at the Emirates.

Gary O'Driscoll

Driscoll has been at Arsenal since 2009 and is one of the old guards who has survived various culls.

He has held lead positions with the British Lions and Ireland rugby team. He should now welcome the chance to work for the European and World Champions. (h/t Metro)

Hailing from Manchester, Driscoll could welcome a return to the North-West of England to Merseyside.

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Liverpool are an extremely well-run club both on and off the pitch. Driscoll should relish the ability to work with the Reds without having to worry about politics or unrest.

In Driscoll, Liverpool look to have found an excellent candidate to continue the work of Andrew Massey as the Reds prepare for life without the medical genius.

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CLUB NEWS

Liverpool fancied to keep rolling at Tottenham Hotspur

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Liverpool visit Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday aiming to continue their relentless march towards a first ever Premier League title.

The Reds head into weekend with a 13-point lead over Leicester City, with reigning champions Manchester City a further point adrift in third place.

With a game in hand on both teams, Liverpool are massive favourites in the to end their long title drought.

Manager Jurgen Klopp will be hoping for better news on the injury front this week after seeing James Milner limp out of the FA Cup clash with Everton on Sunday.

The 24-year-old picked up a hamstring injury early in the game and could be doubtful to face Spurs this weekend.

Defenders Joel Matip and Devran Lovren may be fit enough to rejoin the squad, while midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri is also set to return.

However, Fabinho and Naby Keita are unlikely to be back until later this month, while Nathaniel Clyne remains a long-term absentee.

Spurs also have ongoing injury issues, with Hugo Lloris, Ben Davies and Danny Rose still on the sidelines.

Manager Jose Mourinho’s biggest headache is the absence of Harry Kane, with the striker ruled out for at least a month with a hamstring problem.

Tanguy Ndombele is also doubtful after suffering a hip injury against Southampton on New Years’ Day and he is unlikely to start against Liverpool.

Having successfully negotiated the FA Cup tie against Everton with a much-changed team, confidence amongst the squad will be high for the Spurs game.

Their recent record against the North London club is excellent, with Spurs winning just 12 out of 45 meetings in all competitions since the turn of the century.

in the reverse fixture back in October and will fancy their chances of completing the double this weekend.

Spurs’ form had improvedsince Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino, but they were deservedly beaten in their last outing at Southampton and it’s difficult to imagine them troubling Liverpool.

The fixture kicks-off a tricky looking run of league games that the Reds will be eager to navigate safely over the next few weeks.

They face Manchester United at Anfield on January 19, before visiting Wolverhampton Wanderers the following weekend.

Klopp’s side will then visit West Ham United on January 29 for the game that was rescheduled due to their participation in .

Given their current form it would be no surprise to see Liverpool record four successive victories and that would set them up perfectly for the final few months of the campaign.

With the Champions League and FA Cup also up for grabs, Klopp will be keen for the Reds to maintain their momentum.

The have looked a class apart this season, but their lead could be eroded if complacency is allowed to set in.

A victory this weekend would provide the ideal platform for the next few games and Liverpool look a banker bet to pick up all three points.

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