Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has drawn comparisons to between Virgil van Dijk’s debut and Takumi Minamino’s proposed first appearance – but admits he is “not 100% sure” whether to play his latest arrival against Everton.
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, the Japan star has continued to catch the eye in training this week and, given he is eligible to play in Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Everton, Klopp is aware the player will want to make the same impact Van Dijk did on his Reds debut in the same circumstances two years ago.
Klopp said: “I think it’s pretty much the same situation, I’m not 100 per cent sure.
“Virg (Van Dijk) was injured before, he didn’t play for a while for Southampton.
“So, when he came in, I remember the morning session, I decided in the morning because it was not the actual plan; then, in the morning I just thought, ‘Why not? Come on, let’s give it a try.’ It was obviously a good decision that time.
“Takumi is here and had three sessions with the team now, that’s not so much. But it’s football still.”
“We are thinking about putting him in the squad,” said Klopp on New Year’s Day.
“In this period of the season especially, there will not be 15 weeks until we use him. Is he then the finished article in March? I don’t know.
“We signed the player, he was at Salzburg, so he doesn’t have to change in the moment, just be who you are and then we start working on that and I am looking forward to it.
Minamino’s integration has been helped slightly by having two players in the dressing room who have also previously played for Salzburg – Sadio Mane and Naby Keita.
The Japanese has been allocated a locker between that pair and, while Klopp sees the advantage of lining him up alongside those men, he believes the squad as a whole will make the process easy.
“He was here yesterday, we had a light session and he enjoyed it a lot,” said Klopp. “The boys were incredible with him. Sadio and Naby, with the Salzburg DNA, were really nice.
“If I would like to be a new player I’d like to be a new player in that group because they welcome you with open arms.
“Communication-wise it is really good. His English is absolutely OK but his German is really good. It doesn’t help the team too much but [it does] me.
“We can talk, we didn’t do it too much yesterday because it is important he settles.
“We will not start filling him now with information immediately, ‘You have to do this and that’, we want him to be as natural as possible.
“It would be nice if you and all the other people would give him a bit of time.”