The relentless pressing and attack-minded football of Red Bull Salzburg has caused quite the stir amongst Europe’s elite this season, as Jesse Marsch’s side fought for a place in the Champions League knockout stages until the very end, agonisingly losing to the European champions, Liverpool, with two goals in quick succession.
This has lead to a large number of clubs courting Salzburg’s most exciting prospects, with Sky UK reporting that scouts from 40 clubs were in attendance to watch Die Roten Bullen go toe-to-toe with European royalty on Tuesday. Erling Håland has been at the centre of attention due to his 28 goals and 7 assists in 22 matches (all competitions) this season, but a player that has been performing well behind the smokescreen is Takumi Minamino.
Rumours began to stir back in October when the 24-year-old showcased his talent with a standout performance at Anfield, capping it off with a controlled volley to further ignite the comeback by making it 3-2 in the 56th minute and the assist for the equaliser. This caught the eyes of the club hierarchy and fans alike, with the latter heading to social media to plea for the acquisition of the 22-time Japan international.
This morning, the rumours exploded back into life as the Atheltic’s James Pearce reported that the Premier League leaders have stepped up their pursuit for Minamino amid interest from Bundesliga and Serie A clubs, as well as arch-rivals, Manchester United. It is believed that, while the Merseyside club value him at £20 million plus, he has a release clause of £7.25 million and a move is highly likely in January.
During Marsch’s pre-match press conference ahead of the match against Hartberg, Christoph Fruend confirmed that the two clubs are in discussions and a move in January isn’t off the cards, as he went on to describe it as an ‘honour’ to have such a club interested in their player. A situation like this shows how much Salzburg has developed as a club.
Minamino was signed back in 2015 from Cerezo Osaka for a reported €800,000 (as per Transfermarkt) and he has slowly developed into an instrumental figure. During Marco Rose’s first season at the club, he was rotated a lot with Hannes Wolf, but last season he stepped up and put in noticeable performances in the Europa League, particularly against Celtic and Rosenborg, scoring his first career hat-trick during the first-half in Norway to help them finish top of Group B with a maximum of 18 points.
So, for the reported £7.25 million, what should Liverpool fans expect? He is the epitome of a Red Bull forward, a mixture of an industrialist work-rate and flair. For Red Bull clubs, the forwards are the first line of defence, Minamino allows this to be effective as he understands his role well, positioning himself correctly to block passing lanes before pouncing onto a lose ball and heading towards goal. If the ball goes past him, he isn’t afraid to get stuck into a challenge and win the ball back as quickly as possible.
On the front foot, Minamino is strong in tight spaces and under pressure. Particularly in the Austrian Bundesliga, a lot of teams tend to sit back and withstand the pressure as they are too scared to allow space in behind. Minamino has the intelligence to find pockets of space and provide an additional option between the lines. Once on the ball, he will either use his excellent balance and agility to manufacture space and pick a pass from there or he will produce a one-two pass with immense intricacy to put a team-mate into a goal scoring position.
At times, he can be a bit inconsistent and passive during matches, but when the bright lights are on him, he shines brighter. On form, there’s not much stopping him; he will either drop deep to act as the creative anchor or receive the ball before using his blistering pace on the turn to drive at the defenders, skipping past any attempt to dispossess him. If he’s not influencing deep, he’s on the end of a move, making the final run in behind the defence, and in front of goal, he’s shown that he’s got the composure and technique to finish.
With 9 goals and 11 assists in 22 matches, Minamino looks set to have his best season to date. It is quite the cliché nowadays to label a player as a ‘bargain’, however, it is applicable to this deal as Liverpool are getting a talented player for cut-price deal. Even if he plays a bit-part role, he will develop a lot under Jürgen Klopp and he will provide excellent cover in a multitude of positions, whether it be on the wings, up front or in a deeper role.