Takumi Minamino has admitted that he does not know where he will be playing next season, but thinks he made the right decision to leave Liverpool in January – even if it was a bit rushed.
Minamino initially moved to Anfield in January 2020 after Liverpool activated his £7.25m release clause. However, he could not find as prominent a role on Merseyside as the one he had previously with RB Salzburg. Hence, he left just 12 months later, joining Southampton on loan.
The move came about late in the transfer window and was something of a surprise despite Minamino’s limited role at Liverpool. But he has taken it in his stride and scored an impressive goal on his debut for Saints.
He followed it up with another goal against Chelsea two weeks later, but things have slowed down a bit since. Even so, he has no regrets about his move – even if he doesn’t know what the future holds.
“I am focusing on the present and what I can do now,” Minamino told Kyodo News. “I’m a footballer so I don’t know where I’ll be playing in six months’ time, but I want to be playing at a high level.”
There is no option to buy in Southampton’s loan deal for Minamino. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insisted after his exit that the Japan international retains a future at Anfield.
But despite the rushed deal, the 26-year-old barely thought twice about leaving in January.
“I had a lot of things on my mind to put things into perspective,” he said. “But yes, it didn’t take long to make a decision and tell (Liverpool) that I wanted to go.
“It was like just packing my bags with minimum stuff and get into the car and leave. To be honest I wouldn’t want to go through that again. But, yes, maybe it was a good experience.”
Minamino had managed just two Premier League starts at Liverpool in the first half of the season. It was the same tally as his first six months at the club.
As an attack-minded player, he struggled to get past Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino in the pecking order. Then, when Diogo Jota arrived and made a big impact in the summer, Minamino’s chances slimmed further.
“It was very difficult to get a chance in that team,” he admitted, “but that was always the challenge for me from the beginning, so I wasn’t in a negative mindset at all, even in training.
“It was just about trying to play in matches, get into the starting lineup, and figuring out what I can do to achieve those goals.”
Hence, Minamino realised that more opportunities would come his way at Southampton. He revealed that a conversation with manager Ralph Hasenhuttl convinced him.
“I was happy when I got the offer,” Minamino said. “I knew the manager from his time at Leipzig, and when we spoke on the phone he said he knew me, so that helped a lot.
“I wanted to get more playing time. I knew that if I didn’t make an immediate impact, it wouldn’t be good for the team or me. I think it’s fair to say that there was some pressure.
“But I tried not to think about it too much.”
Minamino aiming for strong end to season
While he doesn’t know what the future holds, Minamino will be hoping to be a protagonist again for Southampton as the season draws to a close.
He said that scoring so early in his Saints career helped him feel at home.
“I think it was the third day after I joined, but I had to show something,” he explained. “Looking back now, scoring a goal did take some weight off my shoulders and made me feel like I belong here.”
That was just the first step, though, and he wants to up his impact.
“I’m hoping it will be a good experience, but I also feel I need to make a mark here,” he said. “I’m not aware of what other people are saying, things might be said because I’m from Liverpool, but I don’t read any of it at all.
“Personally, I get on really well with my teammates, I like the environment and most importantly, I’m getting game time which gives me the most satisfaction as a footballer.”
He may have taken one step back before he can move forward, but Minamino thinks he made the right choice.
“I think so,” he said when asked if he made the right decision. “I’m going to work hard to make sure I’ll be able to say (that is the case) when the season ends.
“It’s totally different. You have to play in matches to really understand. That’s why I chose to come here.
“I don’t think I would have left Liverpool if I thought I could develop just by training there.”