Attitude, quality and goals: 'Top class' Minamino shows why Klopp can bank on Liverpool's support cast

Takumi Minamino Liverpool Getty Images

A couple of days before the January transfer window closed, Liverpool fielded calls from both Leeds and Monaco.

They wanted to know about Takumi Minamino, and more specifically, whether he was available to buy or loan.

The conversations didn’t last long.

The Reds made it clear that unless the offer was, to quote one club source, “something absurd”, the Japanese international would be staying on Merseyside. Minamino, for his part, made it equally clear that he had no intention of giving up on his Anfield career just yet.

Five weeks on, and both parties can be more than happy with their decision. Because as Liverpool march on, Minamino is showing exactly the kind of asset he can be to Jurgen Klopp’s quadruple-chasing side.

His two goals against Norwich at Anfield on Wednesday night secured the Reds a first FA Cup quarter-final appearance since 2015. Minamino now has nine in all competitions this season, which is some tally considering he’s only started eight matches, and that in half of his 14 substitute appearances he’s entered the field in the 80th minute or later.

“What a guy, what a player,” said James Milner after the Norwich game. Klopp, meanwhile, suggested it might have been Minamino’s best display since moving to Liverpool from Salzburg two years ago.

“It was really a complete performance,” the Reds boss said. “The two goals were great, but all the rest was top-class as well.”

Takumi Minamino GFX Liverpool
Getty Images

He’s right on that score. Minamino hasn’t always lit up Anfield, if truth be told, but he did here. He was lively, hungry, full of running and brimming with confidence. He took his first goal well, hammering home from Divock Origi’s lay-off, and his second was smashed in even more emphatically. 

If there was any lingering disappointment from Sunday’s Carabao Cup final, for which he was an unused substitute, then it didn’t show. Instead, he displayed exactly the kind of attitude his manager is looking for.

“That’s the reason we are in the situation we are in,” Klopp said. “That we have this kind of mentality and character in the squad. It’s exactly what we need to be successful in the long term.”

Minamino’s was the most obvious contribution, but it was not the only one. Joe Gomez and Curtis Jones, neither of whom even made the bench at Wembley, returned to the starting XI against Norwich and showed they are ready to fight. Gomez was outstanding at centre-back, while Jones had a fine first half before being withdrawn as a precaution after feeling tightness in his thigh.

Milner filled in at right-back, Origi again played his part, as did Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kostas Tsimikas. None of them, you suspect, will start the biggest games this season, but all of them are needed with Liverpool competing on three fronts between now and May.

“The boys have to be ready,” added Klopp. “They don’t fight each other for a position but they have to fight to be their best version, and then they have a good chance to be in the line-up for the weekend. 

“But no guarantee. You have to do it again and again and again until you get that opportunity, and then you have to show up. That’s what the boys did.”

We should expect the cavalry to return for Saturday’s Premier League clash with West Ham. The likes of Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho and Mohamed Salah were all given the night off against Norwich, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane got six minutes each while Joel Matip and Andy Robertson got none. It would be no surprise if all were to start against the Hammers, with Minamino and the rest either back on the bench or sat in the stands.

That seems hard, but you could say it’s the price you pay for ‘squad depth’. Liverpool have never had it so good in terms of the quality, quantity and variety of their senior options, and that means there will be players, excellent players, left disappointed on a weekly basis.

The good news is that, for now, that disappointment is being channelled correctly. There are no sulkers at Anfield, only scrappers.

Article continues below

Klopp knows that, and he knows he can count on his support cast to step into the limelight as and when needed.

Minamino certainly did that on Wednesday, and not for the first time this season.

In a team where attitude is king, the Japanese star might have the best of them all.