Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is likely to throw new signing Takumi Minamino into the fray in Sunday’s FA Cup Merseyside derby at home to Everton but has stressed the Japan international needs time to adapt.
The £7.25 million arrival from Red Bull Salzburg had his first training session with his new team-mates on Tuesday and is not eligible for today’s Premier League match at home to Sheffield United because of registration regulations. However, it seems likely he will be in contention for Sunday.
“This time we are not allowed, but from the next moment on we are thinking about putting him in the squad,” said Klopp.
“In this period of the season especially, there will not be 15 weeks until we use him. Is he then the finished article in March? I don’t know.
“We signed the player, he was at Salzburg, so he doesn’t have to change in the moment, just be who you are and then we start working on that and I am looking forward to it.
“That’s what the little talk we had… we really signed Takumi Minamino from Salzburg, the guy who played against us like crazy. Just be that and everything will be fine.
“We have some of the best players in the world, but we didn’t bring him in to accept like ‘I am number five, six, seven or eight’. We start learning about each other from now on. He will have all the time he needs, but how much time he needs I have no idea.”
Minaminohas two players in the dressing room who have also previously played for Salzburg – Sadio Mane and Naby Keita and has been allocated a locker between that pair and, while Klopp sees the advantage of lining him up alongside those men, he believes the squad as a whole will make the process easy.
“He was here yesterday, we had a light session and he enjoyed it a lot,” said Klopp. “The boys were incredible with him. Sadio and Naby, with the Salzburg DNA, were really nice. If I would like to be a new player I’d like to be a new player in that group because they welcome you with open arms.
“Communication-wise it is really good. His English is absolutely OK but his German is really good. It doesn’t help the team too much but [it does] me.
“We can talk, we didn’t do it too much yesterday because it is important he settles.
“We will not start filling him now with information immediately – ‘You have to do this and that’. We want him to be as natural as possible.”
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder, meanwhile, had little time for reflection at the end of a stellar 2019 for his club.
The Blades were an outside bet for automatic promotion from the Sky Bet Championship 12 months ago but today they take on Liverpool at Anfield from a position of comfort in the top half of the Premier League.
Wilder’s side have continued to defy the odds – they lost for the first time in almost a year on the road at Manchester City on Sunday – but Wilder preferred to look forward at the turn of the year.
“There’s a fantastic future ahead for the football club. We’ve put ourselves in a great position,” he said. “But I’m never one to sit back and admire and my staff aren’t and my players won’t. We’ve got some huge challenges in the new year and ones we are really looking forward to.”
The first is against Jurgen Klopp’s champions-elect, who were given a real scare by the Blades at Bramall Lane in September when Georginio Wijnaldum’s fumbled shot clinched a narrow win.
Liverpool have since surged clear in the title race but no challenge is a lost cause as far as Wilder is concerned.
“Going to Anfield, iconic stadium, fabulous experience, everything that Liverpool bring to the English game,” he said. “They are the most powerful, historic of clubs in our game and going so well.
“But we’d like to put a little bump in their road, as we tried to do at Manchester City.”
The Blades have beaten Arsenal and drawn with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United this season and are in contention for European football next season.
“Time for reflection is at the end of the season and time to reflect on a career is when you finish,” Wilder added. “But I think certainly the club has done a hell of a lot of good things in this calendar year.”