It’s easy to forget that this is only Takumi Minamino’s second year with Liverpool, and first full season as part of the squad. He arrived in Merseyside shortly before the very first lockdown period, when football was entirely shut down, in a new country where he knew very little of the language - and then was sent on loan in the back half of the 2020-2021 season to Southampton.
Now? Now, he’s settled in Liverpool and was comfortable enough to give an interview to the club website in English, and help the team even more.
“I enjoy this moment and I feel I can help the team,” Minamino said. “I will try all my best for the rest of the season.”
This moment is defined by seven goals this season, four of them from Liverpool’s journey to the Carabao Cup final. He has been able to perform when needed and continues to take advantage of every opportunity given to him to succeed.
“This job as a football player is very hard sometimes because not every player can always play 90 minutes, especially me in this situation,” Minamino explained.
“I want to play for Liverpool. But I’ve played over 50 times for Liverpool and that’s a good thing. I’m very happy about that. I want more and I want to help the team more. It’s not easy but I just want to try to do everything for that.
“All the players are very kind. When I came here, I couldn’t speak any English. Nothing. But I could speak a little bit of German and those players who spoke German – Joel, Sadio, Naby, Shaqiri – I asked them and they could answer in German. It was very helpful, especially in the first season.”
The language barrier wasn’t the only challenge that presented itself to Minamino in his first days with Liverpool. He had just begun training when everything was shut down, and being in a new country and away from home, where it’s difficult to communicate, was a very unique kind of challenge.
“It was a scary, strange and difficult time for me,” the attacker added.
“This club, everything was organised well when we went back to training. The club organised everything perfectly and for me it was very easy to get back into football and join the team again.
“This moment was very difficult but now it’s fine.”
Of course, there’s always going to be tough moments in the process of following your dreams, and Minamino spoke about wanting to play in Europe since he was a kid just starting out on the pitches in Osaka.
“When I was young, I already thought my dream was playing in Europe, especially in the Premier League,” Minamino recalls. “That was my dream.
“As soon as possible, I wanted to move to Europe to play football. That is a big challenge, especially for Japanese players.
“Fernando Torres and David Villa – when I was young, I watched those two players a lot. They were my idols and I wanted to be like them.
“But if you want to achieve your dreams, you have to take a risk or some big challenges. I like taking risks and challenges.”
Those skills were what drew Liverpool to Minamino, witnessing firsthand his ability to press and move the ball when playing against Salzburg - skills that impressed players like Jordan Henderson enough to urge Jurgen Klopp to bring him into the side. Now he’s been able to contribute to another piece of silverware that has so far eluded Klopp - the Carabao Cup. Minamino has featured in all five matches that have led to this point, so this final feels particularly special for the Japanese international.
“This is a big, big thing for me and for us,” he stresses. “I want this title, and the team as well.
“I’ve played a lot in the Carabao Cup, so of course I want to win the cup. Hopefully I can play the final and give it my best.
“It does feel a little bit different. Because in the Carabao Cup in the first game against Norwich, the second game against Preston, our starting line-up was very different from the league. It feels like something different.
“But for me, every game is important. For me it’s a big, big game and I’m happy we’re going to the final. I want to win the Carabao Cup.”
Let’s not jinx it, but it’s sure to be a good match on Sunday at Wembley.