In Focus: Monaco-bound Minamino can make most of Liverpool exit
Takumi Minamino will finally cut ties with Liverpool after agreeing to join Ligue 1 outfit Monaco on a permanent deal.
The Japanese international, 27, has found it impossible to nail down a starting spot at Anfield since his arrival in January 2020 and now heads to France for a reported £15.5million fee.
We assess why things have not worked out for Minamino on Merseyside and how his departure looks set to work for all parties.
When Liverpool acquired Minamino, there was always the feeling of it being a low-risk move.
Three months prior to his arrival, he had dazzled for former club FC Salzburg in a 4-3 Champions League loss at Anfield, even getting on the scoresheet alongside a certain Erling Haaland.
And once Reds chiefs became aware of his modest £7.25m release clause, they wasted little time in striking a deal with his Austrian employers.
At the time of his switch, Liverpool’s front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were virtually impenetrable and it felt inevitable he would be restricted to a supporting role.
That indeed proved to be the case. Minamino made just two starts and eight cameos from the bench in the remainder of the 2019-20 Premier League campaign.
Starved of opportunity
Jurgen Klopp has always spoken about Minamino in glowing terms throughout his time working with the 42-cap international.
Constantly praising his terrifying pace and quick feet, the German coach seems to be a genuine fan of the versatile attacker — but he has simply had better players at his disposal.
That admiration was likely why Klopp allowed the Osaka native to join Southampton on loan in the second half of 2020-21.
Speaking about that switch, Klopp said: "I would have loved to keep him to have the option, but because Takumi is a long-term project, it makes absolute sense.
"We really see really a lot of potential in Takumi. Now he gets the chance to play maybe 17 games, Premier League games, and then comes back in a completely different mindset and confidence level."
Something to offer
Minamino scored twice in his opening three appearances for Southampton but was unable to build on that fast start, failing to find the net again for the Saints.
Despite that, Klopp was true to his word and opted to keep Minamino as part of his Reds squad last term.
He did little wrong in his limited opportunities to impress, either.
Filling in on both flanks, centrally and in an attacking midfield role whenever required, the forward struck 10 goals in 22 appearances and played pivotal roles in the early rounds of both domestic cups.
Liverpool would eventually lift the Carabao Cup and FA Cup — yet their Japanese star was not given the chance to shine in either final.
Talking after the first of those two Wembley triumphs, where Minamino remained on the bench for all 120 minutes against Chelsea, Klopp said: "Taki was a massive part of the run to the Carabao Cup final and that he didn’t play in the final would have been hard on him in the moment.
"But when he looks back he has just won the Carabao Cup and that’s a really good thing."
Victim of the model
The success of Klopp’s Liverpool tenure has been built on several key pillars, two of which are shrewd transfer business and exceptional squad morale.
Bringing in Minamino for a bargain fee was typically savvy business from the Merseysiders, knowing they would be almost guaranteed to sell him on for profit even if he could not reach the required level.
The fact he is set to join Monaco for over double what the Reds paid in 2020 has more than justified the initial purchase.
Clearly, Minamino is a good character who has not rocked the boat during long spells on the fringes, in a similar vein to popular forward Divock Origi.
However, Origi’s impending move to AC Milan shows that even the most loyal players must eventually prioritise their game time.
With the arrivals of Darwin Nunez and Fabio Carvalho, there was little prospect of Liverpool’s No18 making 2022-23 his breakout campaign — it is definitely the right time to move on.
Best to come
Though he may not be destined to be a truly world-class forward, Minamino definitely has enough time and quality to re-establish himself at the top level.
His move to France, joining a Monaco side who finished a convincing third in Ligue 1 last term, should not only guarantee him game time but also a starring role in Philippe Clement’s XI.
When he was a leading figure in Salzburg, he managed over 100 direct goal involvements in fewer than 200 appearances — numbers almost any forward would be proud of.
His recent frustrations were arguably most clear in a post-match interview last December, just after netting an equaliser against Leicester.
He said: "I put in a lot of effort every day to play more and to get game time. I want to play more games and I want to prove to myself that I can do much better, so I use my frustration to turn everything positive."
This next step feels like a positive move for both club and player.