Japanese forward Takumi Minamino’s future at Liverpool is the subject of much speculation at the moment. He has failed to really make his mark in the year and a half he’s been on Liverpool’s books, and this earned him a loan to Southampton for the second half of this past season.
One week ago we heard that Liverpool are open to selling Minamino, and just yesterday we learned that Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhüttl has hopes of bringing the forward back to the south coast on a permanent basis. Today, the Liverpool Echo claims that, despite his slow start for the Reds, Minamino remains in Jürgen Klopp’s plans going forward, and it will take a significant offer to convince them to sell.
According to The Echo, Liverpool have no interest in even letting Minamino go out on loan again as they are confident that a full preseason will bring him up to speed enough to earn a regular spot in the squad.
It’s not hard to see a path to regular playing time for the 26-year-old. The regular front three are aging and could all benefit from more careful management of their minutes, especially with all of them playing for their national teams this summer. Diogo Jota is an excellent rotational option, but at least one more reliable backup is needed.
There’s really not much depth behind Jota. Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri both appear to be on the decline, and there is a strong possibility that one or both could be sold over the summer.
Many are tipping Harvey Elliott to grab hold of the fifth forward spot after his successful season on loan in the Championship with Blackburn. However, the 18-year-old is still quite young and raw, and it remains to be seen if he’s truly ready to compete in the Premier League.
Unless Liverpool bring in front-line reinforcements during the transfer window, that really just leaves Minamino.
Another factor to consider is next January’s Africa Cup of Nations. Both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané are near locks to be called up. That leaves just Roberto Firmino and Jota to lead the line while Salah and Mané are away, so at least one starting spot will be available for a full month of the season.
Of the available options (excluding any potential signings since we really don’t know whether we should expect any or not) Minamino and Elliott are the only two that one could really imagine laying claim to the final spot in the front three while Liverpool’s African contingent are away. And, even if Elliott proves he is ready and slots in behind Jota on the depth chart, at least one more forward will be necessary until Salah and Mané return from AFCON.
From a simple numbers perspective, Liverpool are going to need six forwards they can depend on, at least temporarily, for the coming season. They already have four. Of the options currently available to them, Minamino seems to be the most logical choice for one of the final two spots. While it would be hard to blame Liverpool for selling Minamino should the right offer come in, it would also be a risky endeavor to actively seek to ship him out.
There’s no denying that, so far, Minamino has largely failed to live up to the billing since he arrived in January of 2020. However, we have seen some flashes of what he is capable of. Klopp saw potential in him back in 2020. That potential is still there, and Klopp clearly still believes he can bring it out. That’s good enough for me.