Liverpool are set to complete a bargain £7.25million deal for Red Bull Salzburg playmaker Takumi Minamino.
However, the PA news agency understands they accelerated their pursuit in November after learning of interest from Premier League rivals Manchester United and a number of Bundesliga and Serie A clubs.
Sources believe it would be an “outstanding” deal as Minamino’s current market value is at least three times the value of his buy-out clause and the club are confident – providing there are no issues with his medical or personal terms – the deal will be completed next month.
It will be another coup for sporting director Michael Edwards, who has been so successful in helping assemble the current squad which won the Champions League in June and currently lead their nearest Premier League challengers by eight points.
Edwards and his recruitment team have been aware of Minamino’s release clause for some time, giving them the jump on United, who were not.
They have established a healthy relationship with Salzburg, especially with director of football Christoph Freund – who publicly revealed the talks by telling Salzburg’s Twitter account: “I can confirm that there are currently discussions with Liverpool. It is an honour which clubs are interested in our players.”
Klopp has also been a long-term admirer, similar to his previous interest in current forward Sadio Mane, and he and his coaching staff applied pressure to get a deal done.
After Tuesday’s win in Salzburg it is understood a number of Liverpool’s senior players jokingly urged their manager to sign Minamino, unaware the wheels were already in motion.
The plan is for the Japanese, also wanted by Borussia Monchengladbach and AC Milan, to drop straight into the squad and start playing matches next month.
He is seen as a key player for his country, scoring five goals in his last four World Cup qualifiers, and national team boss Hajime Moriyasu believes the playmaker should be at a top European club.
Sources have also dismissed as “ludicrous” claims the club are signing Minamino for his commercial value in the Asian market with the decision based on football ability and suitability within Klopp’s squad.