Takumi Minamino‘s manager at Salzburg, Jesse Marsch, believes he could prove a capable alternative to Roberto Firmino, and praised the No. 18’s willingness to learn.
The suspension of football in England has served as an unwelcome pause for Minamino as he settles into life at Liverpool—five months since joining, he has only played seven times.
Just three of his outings have come as a starter—all in the FA Cup, as he stood in for Firmino in a heavily rotated side, supported by the likes of Divock Origi, Harvey Elliott and Sadio Mane.
There have been signs that he is finding his feet, but Minamino is yet to score or assist and only once has he played the full 90 minutes, that being in the 1-0 loss to Chelsea in March.
But speaking to the Blood Red podcast, Marsch admitted “it may take a little bit of time” for the Japan international to settle, and that he could not be expected to play the same role as Mane or Mohamed Salah.
“What you have right now at Liverpool are some of the best players in the world in this position,” Marsch said.
“Taki’s still young, and he will need to adapt, and he’s not a pure, explosive player like Sadio Mane or Mo Salah.
“He’s more of an intelligent player. [One] that has physical qualities, but is a really intelligent footballer.
“It may take time for everyone to fully appreciate his qualities, but it will come.
“We’ve seen it here that his ability to understand tactical systems, his ability to understand how to find attacking moments, be good around the goal, is all quite good.
“It may take a little bit of time, but eventually it’ll come together for him.”
Minamino could, in theory, play any number of roles across the forward line and in midfield, with Jurgen Klopp praising him as “a proper team player” on his £7.25 million switch from Salzburg in January.
But Marsch feels he would be best either in Firmino’s duty up front, or even deeper in the midfield, in a similar role to Gini Wijnaldum or Naby Keita.
“He won’t be the best at playing the position that Salah and Sadio play,” he continued.
“Because the way they’re used there at Liverpool is really for explosive transition movements.
“I think he could be good in Firmino’s position, where against the ball he’s ready to do some pressing, but then when they have the ball he comes almost into a No. 10 position for buildup and then gets back in the box to find ways to score goals.
“Firmino’s so good at that, but that’s something that Taki can do well.
“And I think he can play the No. 8 position in the midfield, one of the two wide spots [in the three], where he’s ready to press and help pick up balls, but he’s also part of the buildup phases.
“Because he’s so intelligent I think either the Firmino [role] or the positions alongside the No. 6 in the system they play at Liverpool would be good for him.”
Marsch also gave an insight into Minamino’s character, and insisted that he would have no issue with playing second fiddle at this stage as he attempts to establish himself at Liverpool.
“He’s happy there, he’s talked about training being good, he’s talked about the guys being good guys,” he said, having spoken to Minamino since leaving Austria.
“You also have to understand the Japanese culture a little bit, he’s not the kind of guy that’s ever going to complain about anything.
“He’s always going to talk about doing his job and be focused on being a good professional.
“This is kind of the fun of being a football manager. You get to work with people from different cultures and you get to learn about how they operate.
“And in the end you’re trying to still break some cultural barriers so there’s good communication, good relationships.
“But from a cultural and personality perspective, Taki will only show up every day and do everything possible to try and improve.”