Inside story behind Liverpool’s six-year transfer pursuit of Takumi Minamino

3 minute read

If Jurgen Klopp couldn’t hide a broader grin that usual in training on Wednesday, then it wasn’t just through Champions League satisfaction.

One by one, senior players at the club sidled up to him to plant a suggestion that he take a closer look at the player who caused them so many problems for Red Bull Salzburg the night before.

The Liverpool manager, of course, knew something the likes of skipper Jordan Henderson and defensive leader Virgil van Dijk did not. The subject of their admiration - Takumi Minamino - was already a Red.

In principle at least. For more than six weeks, the club’s Sporting Director Michael Edwards has been in amicable, progressive negotiations with his counterpart at Salzburg, their Director of Football Christoph Freund.

Takumi Minamino has joined Liverpool from RB Salzburg (Image: REUTERS via MIRROR)

“I can confirm that there are currently discussions with Liverpool. It is an honour which clubs are interested in our players,” Freund said on Thursday, with the player a done deal subject to a medical.

Yet that is only part of the story. The talks over the past two months are merely the conclusion of a process which has landed Liverpool one of the most exciting players in world football…for a steal.

Edwards and his recruitment team - which includes a high-tech, high-powered analytics department - have actually tracked Minamino since 2013, before he left Cerezo Osaka in Japan (and playing alongside Diego Forlan) to join Salzburg.

During that long tracking process, Edwards and his team maintained regular scrutiny, through personal checks and extensive analysis of his data.

In the past two seasons they have seen a huge leap in his development - and in his numbers in terms of physical progression, stamina and output - in Austria. In fact, most Premier League clubs saw him as a bigger prize that Salzburg’s other star, Erling Haaland.

Liverpool have been tracking Minamino since he was at Cerezo Osaka (Image: Atsushi Tomura via MIRROR)

That was illustrated in the two games he has played against Liverpool this season, and his man of the match performance for his team at Anfield. But also in reaching the Europa League semi-final in 2018, and the fact that Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu has built his international team around the 24 year old.

Crucially, Edwards has built up a relationship with Freund at Salzburg, and also with the wider Red Bull organisation, after delicate and again amicable negotiations with Leipzig over the sale of Naby Keita.

That allowed his team to discover a priceless piece of information that rivals for his signature didn’t have - the fact that Minamino had a release clause inserted when the Austrians took up an option last February to extend his contract to 2021.

Manchester United, AC Milan and Bundesliga leaders Borussia Monchengladbach were all tracking and regularly watching the Japan forward, but were unaware of the clause setting such a low price.

Michael Edwards is the man behind the Minamino transfer (Image: PA)

It is a huge bargain for Liverpool, given the player fits Klopp’s profile almost perfectly. He has average around 12km a game distance covered this season, and has 20 goal involvements in 22 games for Salzburg - and those are elite numbers.

Edwards relationship with the Red Bull franchises is no coincidence. Klopp is a keen admirer of their work in finding young talent and developing it spectacularly, with both Sadio Mane and Keita following the path from Salzburg.

Klopp himself has been an admirer of the player since he arrived in Austria, and his smile when Minamino scored against Liverpool at Anfield perhaps betrayed his feelings more than was realised at the time.

He has got a player valued around the £30m mark for a fraction of that price, and there is an added bonus too - though it has no impact on the signing.

Klopp sees Minamino as ideal for his team, with his ability to be creative and productive in several positions, and he will play a lot of Premier League games during the second half of the campaign, according the manager.

He is there at Anfield by right, and in fact as a coup, given he cost what Liverpool sold youngster Ryan Kent for and a third of what they got for Dominic Solanke and Danny Ings.

But he is also a prize because of his status in the Far East as a true Japanese hero.

That helps in trying to crack that particular market, which was a stated aim of the club when they won a court case to switch from New Balance to Nike for their kit deal.

No wonder Klopp had a huge smile on Wednesday.

Sumber: salin tempel dari artikel MIRROR.CO.UK

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