Takumi Minamino running into a familiar problem after “regret and anger” at Liverpool

With all the trials and tribulations that have been going on at Liverpool this season, it is tempting to say that Takumi Minamino could have been forgiven for wondering what would have happened if he’d stayed at Anfield this summer.

But the truth is that he’d have already known.

The Japanese proved to be the most valuable of squad players during a 2021-22 campaign when the whole squad was needed.

He scored 10 goals in the season, with seven of them coming across the two domestic cup competitions that the Reds won, making him the the club’s top scorer in both.

It’s just that it was never quite enough.

When the big Premier League and Champions League games came around he was always overlooked, and while from the outside we could laud Jurgen Klopp’s strength in depth whenever Minamino delivered on the odd occasion he was called upon, on the inside it was proving hard to take.

“Many of the games I played weren’t of interest to anyone,” Minamino was quoted as telling Japanese outlet Sanspo – via Mail Online – in June, less than a month after a Champions League final he wasn’t involved in, as he’d have expected.

“Even if I left the results, there wasn’t much response. I was trying to inspire myself to prove my worth. I was doing personal training other than team training.

Minamino proved crucial in Liverpool's winning cup runs, but didn't play in the bigger matches

Minamino proved crucial in Liverpool’s winning cup runs, but didn’t play in the bigger matches
Getty Images)

“I was thinking that I would leave something behind when I went to the match mentally.

“I felt motivated by regret and anger every day. I’ve never had this much time as a player. It was difficult to maintain the condition and connect with my feelings.

“But it was a season that seemed to have grown. It was disappointing but fulfilling. At the same time, it makes sense to play an important game and leave a result, so it is said that I got out and got a result, but I do not think it was a big deal.

“I want to do my best to be a player who can produce results in important games.”

Minamino had his sights set higher than the FA and Carabao Cups, quite understandably, but as Liverpool’s season evolved as it did he became an important player in both. Although not important enough to figure in either successful final, which tells its own story.

Always one of the club’s more curious signings, with the Reds taking advantage of a low release clause to take him from Salzburg in January 2020, just prior to the pandemic, it had always seemed as though the Japanese was at Anfield for a good time and not a long time.

A quick flip was always on, and when it became clear that the good time wasn’t being had by the player then it was right that it happened.

Minamino left Liverpool in search of more opportunities

Minamino left Liverpool in search of more opportunities

Less than three months into life at new club Monaco though, and Minamino finds himself in a familiar position.

The 27-year-old made his debut for his new club in a Champions League qualifier against PSV Eindhoven in early August, but he was to be substituted in both legs as Monaco undid all of last season’s good work in finishing third in La Liga by losing to the Eredivisie outfit, who themselves would go on to lose to Rangers in the playoff round.

Minamino’s Ligue 1 bow would then come 11 days after the second leg at home to Lens, but again he struggled and was taken off before the hour mark in a 4-1 defeat.

Next came Monaco’s most glamorous game of the season, at Paris Saint-Germain, and the type of “important game” that Minamino would have hoped to now be called upon for after he’d escaped reserve duty at Liverpool.

He was dropped to the bench though, and within a few minutes of coming on he watched as Neymar’s penalty levelled the scores and prevented the club from the Principality securing a famous win.

Minamino scored his first goal for Monaco on Sunday

Minamino scored his first goal for Monaco on Sunday
AFP via Getty Images)

Next up was a start at home to mid-table Troyes, but when defender Guillermo Maripan was sent off just before the break, coach Philippe Clement decided that Minamino was the attacker he could sacrifice at half-time. Monaco went on to lose 4-2.

Then Minamino’s first Europa League action of the season then saw him brought off before the hour mark against Red Star Belgrade, before failing to even make it off the bench in the next two matches against Lyon in the league and Ferencvaros in Europe, the latter a 1-0 loss.

He was back on the bench again for the weekend trip to Reims, but after emerging in the 65th minute Minamino at least found the solace of his first goal for Monaco, the second strike in a 3-0 win and only his seventh league goal in two-and-a-half years after specialising in the cups at Liverpool.

Will it be the start of a turnaround in his fortunes? We’ll have to wait and see.

For now he is likely to be solely focused on Japan’s upcoming friendlies against the United States and Ecuador, their final matches before the World Cup where they’ll face a difficult group including Germany, Spain and Costa Rica.

He still has the quality to make a difference in the ‘important games’ in Qatar, but right now he needs a turnaround in fortunes in order to get himself in shape.

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