Pending a successful medical, Liverpool will sign Japan international Takumi Minamino from RB Salzburg in January.
After impressing twice against the Reds in this season’s Champions League group stage, the 24 year old will join £7.25M after the European Champions elected to trigger his paltry release clause.
Capable of playing across the front three, off the striker or even as the most advanced central midfielder in a three, Minamino could well prove to be another shrewd piece of transfer business from the European Champions Sporting Director, Michael Edwards, and his team.
Aside from the clear on field abilities the speedy attacker could potentially bring, the transfer also represents a pivot in the transfer strategy of the club.
By all accounts, Liverpool were aware of the talents of Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita — among the club’s most important players — while they plied their trade in the Swiss, Scottish and Austrian leagues, respectively.
In the case of Salah, the club were unwilling to better the bid Chelsea made to Basel to sign the Egyptian in 2014 with doubts cast over the forwards ability to transfer his abilities straight from a league of lesser quality, The Swiss Super League, to the Premier League.
Similarly, there was scepticism among the transfer powers that be at the club over van Dijk, Mane and Keita replicating the form they showed in the Scottish Premier League and the Austrian Bundesliga in the pressure cooker that is the English league.
The Reds holding fire on signing younger players direct from leagues of lesser quality and letting them develop elsewhere made sense in the last few years. Playing the long game, the Anfield team waited until such a time when they felt the likes of van Dijk, Mane and Keita had proven themselves to the degree that they are willing to pay significantly more than they could have. This was a less risky strategy for a club who were trying to re-establish themselves at the top table of European football.
After all, these players needed to come in and hit the ground running and become cornerstones of the team that badly needed the attributes they were signed to provide. Mane gave the team an injection of pace and goals from wide areas and van Dijk brought leadership and the defensive solidity sorely lack from an extremely flimsy rearguard.
Now, though, as European Champions, Liverpool can take punts and sign players “direct from source” without having to wait for them to develop at clubs like Southampton and RB Leipzig first.
Clearly, as the holders of the Champions League and the runaway Premier League leaders, this Liverpool team is excellent and a formidable outfit. Therefore, the pressure on Minamino to sign and immediately shoot the lights out is lessened. The Japanese star is being signed to supplement an already brilliant attack and will have the time to bed into the team because — as has been proven — the side is brilliant without him.
As shown with Fabinho and Keita, manager Jurgen Klopp sometimes opts to keep players out of the firing line and let them develop on the training ground first before using them in games. While bedding in the Brazilian and the Guinean, Liverpool still managed to keep winning in a period of games that precipitated a 97 point league tally and a European Cup win.
The same could apply to Minamino, with the former Cerezo Osaka player being blooded from the comfort of a position of power, sitting atop English and European football.
Should the Reds keep winning and the Japanese forward prove to be the success that many have predicted him to be, more signings could be made from “smaller” leagues in the future.