Takumi Minamino has withdrawn from the Japan squad ahead of their final World Cup qualifier, as the Liverpool forward faces a decision over his future at the club.
Minamino met Marko Grujic in action on Friday as Japan sealed a 1-0 victory over Serbia in a friendly in Kobe.
The pair swapped shirts at full-time and caught up after their respective loan spells, and it could prove to be one of their final meetings as team-mates.
Grujic is attracting interest from a number of clubs, including Porto, following his successful campaign in Portugal, with Liverpool hoping to raise around £15 million from his sale.
For Minamino, the situation is less clear, with the 26-year-old expected to rejoin Jurgen Klopp‘s squad for pre-season training on July 12, but there is still a chance he departs again.
A hint about his future may have come from an announcement from the Japan Football Association, who reveal that Minamino has withdrawn from the squad prior to Tuesday’s meeting with Kyrgyzstan.
Their explanation is simply “club circumstances,” and it is highly unlikely that is simply to allow him more time to rest before the warmup schedule begins.
Southampton have confirmed their ongoing interest in Minamino, with manager Ralph Hasenhuttl admitting talks have already taken place between both clubs, and a return to St Mary’s is feasible.
Liverpool would look to make a sizeable profit on the £7.25 million paid to sign their No. 18 from Salzburg at the start of last year if any sale is sanctioned.
The versatile attacker scored twice in 10 appearances while out on loan, having scored four goals and assisted two in 17 outings for Liverpool before his surprise departure in February.
He leaves the Japan squad having been on the cusp of a World Cup qualifying record for his country, after equalling Keisuke Honda’s feat of netting in seven consecutive qualifiers with his strike against Tajikistan on Monday.