Liverpool are on the verge of completing the bargain £7.25million deal for Red Bull Salzburg playmaker Takumi Minamino, as more details emerged of how the Reds won the race for his signature.
The Times broke the news on Thursday morning that Jurgen Klopp had “accelerated” his interest in the 24-year-old attacker, who impressed in the two recent Champions League matches against the Reds.
And while it has emerged that Liverpool had been keeping tabs on Minamino since 2013, it is understood they accelerated their pursuit in November after learning of interest from Premier League rivals Manchester United and a number of Bundesliga and Serie A clubs.
Sources believe it would be an “outstanding” deal as Minamino’s current market value is at least three times the value of his buy-out clause and the club are confident – providing there are no issues with his medical or personal terms – the deal will be completed early next month.
Takumi Minamino, scorer of the second Salzburg goal… my god, one of the best performances I’ve ever seen by an opposition player at Anfield. After one outrageous turn near the centre circle, I tapped the lad next to me and said, “that number 18’s some player”. Often such comments backfire but he was sensational. For the second goal, I could see how much space he was in and was thinking ‘mark him, mark him’. A superb ball picked Minamino out and he thumped home a superb volley to cut the lead to 3-2.
It will be another coup for Liverpool’s transfer guru / sporting director Michael Edwards, who has been so successful in helping assemble the current squad which won the Champions League in June and currently lead their nearest Premier League challengers by eight points.
Edwards and his recruitment team have been aware of Minamino’s release clause for some time, giving them the jump on United, who – and this was key to the deal – were not.
They have established a healthy relationship with Salzburg, especially with director of football Christoph Freund – who publicly revealed the talks by telling Salzburg’s Twitter account: “I can confirm that there are currently discussions with Liverpool. It is an honour which clubs are interested in our players.”
🗣️ Christoph #Freund zum aktuellen Gerücht um Takumi #Minamino: Ich kann bestätigen, dass es aktuell Gespräche mit Liverpool gibt. Es ist eine Ehre, welche Vereine sich für unsere Spieler interessieren.
— FC Red Bull Salzburg (@RedBullSalzburg) December 12, 2019
Klopp has also been a long-term admirer, similar to his previous interest in current forward Sadio Mane, and he and his coaching staff applied pressure to get a deal done.
In addition, and after Tuesday’s win in Salzburg it is understood a number of Liverpool’s senior players jokingly urged their manager to sign Minamino, unaware the wheels were already in motion.
The plan is for the Japanese, also wanted by Borussia Monchengladbach and AC Milan, to drop straight into the squad and start playing matches next month – giving the Reds a timely lift in their pursuit of more glory in 2020.
He is seen as a key player for his country, scoring five goals in his last four World Cup qualifiers, and national team boss Hajime Moriyasu believes the playmaker should be at a top European club.
Sources have also dismissed as “ludicrous” claims the club are signing Minamino for his commercial value in the Asian market with the decision based on football ability and suitability within Klopp’s squad.
Minamino has scored nine times across 22 appearances this season.