Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted to being blown away by Takumi Minamino’s first taste of action for the club, naming the parts of his debut that pleased him the most.
The £7.25million arrival from Red Bull Salzburg had his first training session with his new team-mates on Tuesday but was not eligible for Thursday’s Premier League match at home to Sheffield United because of registration regulations.
However, after catching Klopp’s eye in training, the Japan star was afforded his chance from the off against Everton, despite the Reds boss speaking about his serious doubts about picking him ahead of the game.
But after watching his latest recruit catch the eye against the Toffees – a game in which the Premier League leaders won 1-0 to advance to the FA Cup fourth round – Klopp was positively beaming about Minamino‘s display.
“Super, outstanding. Exactly the player we wanted, exactly the player we wished for,” Klopp said.
“Your first game in a team you don’t know, if it’s a settled team it’s already difficult – this team we threw more or less on the pitch with two sessions together.”
Asked what about Minamino’s performance had pleased him most, Klopp continued: “Showing this kind of game understanding, football skills are exceptional, attitude is outstanding, led the chasing pack so often in different situations, which I loved.
“He didn’t look tired, but because we don’t know him that long we just wanted to save him a little bit, so took him off.”
Addressing the return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain off the bench, Klopp added: “It was a nice add-on to have [Alex] Oxlade [Chamberlain] back, he looked pretty lively when he came on. He trained only one day, two days now, and that’s why he didn’t start. Super.”
This tie was the fifth competition Liverpool had played in the previous 27 days, so it was little surprise Klopp decided to give his jaded Premier League leaders a rest.
Had the injury situation at the club not been as bad as it is – the return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain left six senior players unavailable – Klopp would have fielded a stronger side, but what was essentially a third-string line-up did him proud.
“It’s very important we give the boys this opportunity. I tell them in training that it’s important not all of them, in their first impulse, go out on loan. There is something to learn here as well,” he added.
“We saw these boys come closer and closer to being ready to play for us. I’m really happy about that.
“It made me really proud and I told the boys they have to be proud in that performance because it was exceptional.”
The Reds boss also had warm words for matchwinner Curtis Jones, who scored a brilliant goal after 71 minutes to settle the tie.
“They played brave football. Unbelievable individual performances from the kids and the adults as well”, Klopp said.
“Adam Lallana – what a game, unbelievable. Joe Gomez – organising the whole defence for maybe the first time in his life.
“Sensational game and a sensational goal from a Scouser – who could ask for more? You cannot perform like the boys performed if you think you should not perform in that team.
“They all think like that. I am so happy they all showed up tonight. The only thing I didn’t want was a draw. We had to take some risks and it paid off.”