Takumi Minamino may be one of those players who saw their career change because of the Covid. In January 2020, the Japanese international decided to join Liverpool, thinking he had the opportunity to finally shine on the European scene and in a major championship. But confinement and the Covid did not facilitate its emergence far from it since it was never really able to integrate into an XXL workforce which had just shone in the Champions League the year before. “It was a scary, strange and difficult time for me. In addition, because of the Covid, I haven’t had enough opportunities to learn more about England yet. I would like to discover more things», he explained in an interview with the club media a few months ago. And yet, Takumi Minamino had arrived in Liverpool by the will of Jürgen Klopp who had flashed on him a few weeks earlier.
One evening in October 2019, Liverpool hosted RB Salzburg in the Champions League in the legendary Anfield enclosure. On the right lane of the Austrian attack that evening, a certain Takumi Minamino. For 90 minutes, the native of Izumisano, in Osaka Prefecture, literally walks on the meadow. On the right, on the left, in the axis, the Japanese illustrates his wide technical and tactical palette and shows himself by scoring a sublime goal with a beautiful recovery in front of the eyes and the smile of a charmed Jürgen Klopp. He will close his score by offering a caviar to a certain Erling Haaland, 18, who had just come into play a few minutes earlier. And what does it matter if that evening Salzburg loses (3-4), Minamino caused a sensation and it is almost without surprise that Liverpool announces his arrival a few weeks later for around 8 million euros.
A very early start in Europe, and its name in the Guinness Book of Records
But before getting there, this versatile striker had first shone in his native country on the side of Cerezo Osaka, a Japanese first division club. Born a few days after the Kobe earthquake which killed more than 6,500 people in 1995, Minamino had grown up in a sports family. And it is naturally that he turned to football from an early age. Very gifted with the ball, he quickly caught the eye of his future club Cerezo Osaka, which he joined in 2011 at only 16 years old. There, he discovered the professional world and made a name for himself, notably in the Asian Champions League. Before that, it was with the youth teams of Japan that he began to be talked about. Brilliant during the Asian Championship in U19 and U23, he also achieved a successful performance with his selection during the U17 World Cup. In 2014, when he had a string of good club performances, he even made a name for himself in a very original way: by entering the Guinness Book of Records. “Yes, I held the record for the most high-fives (note: the equivalent of a handshake) in one minute, but I think it has been beaten. It was an event organized by the club for people living in the area, in the city. About 200 people lined up in a mall and as I was the youngest player on the team, I was chosen to join them. I had to run along the line and clap them and I managed to make the Guinness World Records”he explained recently.
But it is on the ground that he really starts to make people talk about him. So much so that RB Salzburg, renowned for unearthing future nuggets of football, secured his services in 2015 when he was only 19 years old and his club had just been relegated to the second division. At that time, there was no question for him to hesitate and despite his young age, he therefore decided to leave his native country for Austria. There, Minamino will know everything and above all will cross a real milestone. “As soon as possible, I wanted to move to Europe to play football. This is a big challenge, especially for Japanese players. But if you want to achieve your dreams, you have to take a risk or face great challenges. I like to take risks and take on challenges”, he admitted to the microphone of the club channel. And these risks paid off since almost 200 matches later (199) and after 64 goals and 43 assists, he joined Liverpool.
David Villa and Fernando Torres inspirations
If he still won the Premier League with the Reds, the former Osaka will not have shone and even his loan from Southampton to allow him to acclimatize to the Premier League will not have not been a great success. After only 10 small matches in 6 months (2 goals), the Japanese returned to Liverpool. But faced with stiff competition in attack, he could only settle for crumbs and a few bits of matches. Enough to shine sometimes and score a few goals (14) but too fair to have a real role in a workforce that nevertheless plays on all fronts. So this summer, at 27 and after spending two mixed seasons in the Premier League, it was perhaps time to embark on a new challenge for those who consider themselves in the prime of life.“As a footballer, the ages between 26 and 30 are your best time, the time when you can play at your peak as a player. For my part, at this age, I would like to play as many matches as possible., he confided a few days ago. He should be heard since he will, unless the situation turns around, join Ligue 1 and AS Monaco.
Able to play in all attacking positions, the Japanese international (41 caps, 17 goals) will have something to play for AS Monaco. A few months before the World Cup, Minamino will certainly have an important role in the Monegasque eleven and should have much more playing time than in Liverpool. Enough to allow him to regain confidence and get closer to the level of his two models: Fernando Torres and David Villa.