Liverpool poised to sign Salzburg’s Takumi Minamino in cut-price deal

Liverpool are set to complete a bargain £7.25 million deal for Red Bull Salzburg playmaker Takumi Minamino.

Salzburg's Japanese midfielder Takumi Minamino vies with Liverpool's Andrew Robertson. Picture: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty

The Reds have been keeping tabs on the Japan international, who impressed in the two recent Champions League matches against Jurgen Klopp’s side, since 2013.

However, it is understood 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.

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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, pictured, 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.

Meanwhile, Andrew Robertson believes Liverpool’s reputation in the Champions League is so fearsome no-one will want to face them in the knockout stages.

Klopp’s side have reached a European final in three of the four seasons he has been at the club, starting with the Europa League in 2016 and then back-to-back appearances in the elite competition culminating with a sixth European Cup in June.

Having booked a last-16 spot as group winners after the 2-0 win in Salzburg, the club head into the new year eyeing a third successive Champions League final.

And Scotland captain Robertson believes none of their opponents will want to be pitted against them in Monday’s draw in Nyon.

“We respect every opponent we play but we know the way we have done things in the last two years and nobody wants to play against us and that is clear – but it is up to us to keep proving that,” said the left-back.

“We cannot rely on that and we need to keep proving why people don’t want to play against us but, so far, we have done that.

“We will wait for the draw and see who we get in the last 16. We know it will be tough regardless but we look forward to the challenge as we want to go far in this tournament again.”

Liverpool have made a habit of making life tough on themselves in the group stage, having taken qualification to the final game for the last three years, but coming alive in the knockout phase.

It is that form which makes them such unenviable opposition, having beaten the likes of Bayern Munich, Roma, Manchester City and – most famously Barcelona in May – over the last two seasons.

“That is the atmosphere we have created in the last two years, a team which has been to the final twice and has 
obviously lost one and won one and we are respected in this tournament,” added 
Robertson.