SALZBURG, AUSTRIA - Tuesday, August 25, 2020: Liverpool's Takumi Minamino during a preseason friendly match between FC Red Bull Salzburg and Liverpool FC at the Red Bull Arena. (Pic by Propaganda)

Liverpool given Takumi Minamino boost ahead of pivotal pre-season

Jurgen Klopp will be able to assess Takumi Minamino throughout pre-season as he makes a decision on the future of his No. 18, after he was left out of the Japan squad.

Minamino’s loan spell with Southampton ended last month, having scored twice in nine appearances for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side, who have expressed a desire to retain him.

The 26-year-old subsequently linked up with Japan for their clashes with Myanmar, Tajikistan and Serbia, scoring three goals, before dropping out ahead of their 5-1 victory over Kyrgyzstan.

It had been speculated that his early exit from the squad was in order to finalise a move away from Liverpool, but it was later cleared up that his withdrawal was pre-planned in order to allow him sufficient rest ahead of pre-season.

Liverpool will report back to Kirkby on July 12, meaning Minamino will have had almost a month off before a period that could be pivotal.

The Reds are not looking to loan the forward out again, and while a permanent switch has not been ruled out, it is believed that Klopp wishes to first run the rule over a player he described as a “long-term project.”

He will be able to do so uninterrupted, now, with Minamino having been left out of the Japan squad for this summer’s Olympics.

Takumi Minamino (JPN), September 10, 2019 - Football / Soccer : FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Asian Qualifier Second Round Group F match between Myanmar 0-2 Japan at Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar, (Photo by AFLO)

Minamino had been considered as one of manager Akinobu Yokouchi’s over-age selections, but captain Maya Yoshida, defender Hiroki Sakai and midfielder Wataru Endo have been named instead.

The Olympics are set to be held in Japan from July 22 to August 7, with those involved therefore missing the majority of Liverpool’s pre-season schedule.

The club have been described as “not keen” to release their players for the tournament due to COVID-19 safety concerns, though it is unclear whether they blocked Minamino’s participation.

Mohamed Salah and Ibrahima Konate could still be included by Egypt and France respectively, though it seems unlikely given opposition from within Liverpool.

For Minamino, the focus will now be on returning to full fitness and proving himself at Kirkby, with there still being scope for the forward to reclaim a place in Klopp’s squad.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 20, 2020: Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp prepares to bring on substitute Takumi Minamino during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by Propaganda)

“Takumi is a long-term project, always was,” the manager said in February, having conceded he “didn’t give him enough chances.”

“We see a lot of potential in Takumi and it makes absolute sense for him to play maybe 17 games in the Premier League.

“And then he comes back in a different mindset, confidence level all these kind of things so I hope it is a win-win situation.

“He just has to enjoy football again there. He’s an outstanding professional, a top talent and a really, really good player so it’s all good.”