Southampton's Takumi Minamino celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at St James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne. Picture date: Saturday February 6, 2021.

Takumi Minamino set for LFC return as Southampton prioritise Theo Walcott deal

Takumi Minamino will return to Liverpool at the end of his loan, with Ralph Hasenhuttl revealing that Southampton “haven’t had any negotiations” over a permanent deal. 

Minamino has explained how his mid-season switch to St Mary’s has helped restore the confidence lost during his time out of the side at Liverpool, having scored twice in six games so far.

The 26-year-old is not holding down a regular starting role under Hasenhuttl, however, with Theo Walcott, Stuart Armstrong, Moussa Djenepo, Nathan Redmond, Che Adams and Danny Ings all rotated as part of his front line.

Walcott’s form on loan looks to have ruled out a permanent move to the south coast for Minamino, with Hasenhuttl confirming the club are in talks with the Englishman over a free transfer when his contract with Everton expires.

Meanwhile, the manager has revealed that Southampton “haven’t had any negotiations” of that kind with Liverpool regarding their No. 18.

“We don’t even know what Liverpool thinks about the player in the summer,” he told the Southern Daily Echo.

“The deal was to give him game time during the first half of the year when he is here.

“This is what we did definitely, until now, and hopefully he will get even more time to play.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, February 4, 2020: Liverpool's Takumi Minamino during the FA Cup 4th Round Replay match between Liverpool FC and Shrewsbury Town at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Minamino’s comments on his game time at Southampton are encouraging, with the forward clearly more comfortable than he was during his first year at Liverpool, which could bode well upon his expected return.

But as Hasenhuttl assessed the situation, the Austrian provided a contradictory view.

“It is never nice for a player if you don’t have the game time you want to have,” he said.

“It’s always hard only to train and not see the perspective to be part of the squad, or the first XI. This definitely then helps your mentality when you get a lift and a chance to play.

“This is what I always say when players like to join big clubs, because they get a lot of money there and they get a lot of praise for being a part of one of the top six or whatever.

“But it is only for a short moment when you are happy about it because in the end when you are not playing enough times and when you are not really important for the club, then it feels very awful very quickly.”

However, he concluded: “At the moment it is a little bit more difficult, but still with his quality here he has scored a few good goals for us so far. I am happy to have him on the bench.”