The timing probably couldn’t have been any worse for Takumi Minamino’s to sign with Liverpool, with the Japanese attacker joining the club last January while the Reds were in imperious form and the world was on the verge of falling into a global pandemic.
The former would always have made minutes hard to come by for any new signing. Then when the latter happened, it meant the new arrival spent his time in isolation and made it even more difficult for the 26-year-old to settle at a new club in a new city and country.
“It was extremely difficult,” Minamino said, reflecting on the situation following his move to Anfield in an interview with Japan’s Kyodo News. “There were no restaurants open and nobody knew when football would restart, and I really wanted to go back to Japan.
“I couldn’t even meet with anyone, so mentally it was very tough. It was very difficult to get a chance in that team, but that was always [going to be] the challenge. It was just about trying to play in matches, get into the starting lineup, and figuring out what I can do.”
In the end, after spending a year at the club he had made 31 appearances, but many were off the bench and it felt as though he was a long way down the pecking order. When a chance to move to Southampton came, then, Minamino says he was eager to take it.
“It didn’t take long to make a decision,” he said of the move, which came together late in the window and meant Minamino had just hours to decide if he would leave the Reds on loan. “I was happy when I got the offer. I knew the manager from his time at Leipzig.
“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. I think it’s fair to say that there was some pressure. But I tried not to think about it.”
The question now is what comes after his loan, with Southampton having tried to get Liverpool to agree a purchase option but the Reds believing he might still have a role to play—but that more than anything he needed playing time to settle in a new league.
“You have to play in matches to really understand [a new league,” Minamino added. “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.”