Liverpool have fended off competition from Manchester United to agree a January deal in principle with Red Bull Salzburg for Takumi Minamino, who has a paltry release clause of just £7.25million.
Christoph Freund, sporting director of the Austrian champions, told The Independent this week that the 24-year-old is ready to accelerate his development at one of Europe’s elite clubs after five years of service.
Liverpool’s excellent off-field relationship with Salzburg – their new £50million training base was inspired by their Champions League group opponents – has helped them push past a queue of interest in Minamino, which includes United and several Bundesliga sides.
The player himself had originally expected his next destination to be Germany’s top-tier and given his modest nature, was said to be taken aback that the Premier League leaders were heavily pursuing him.
“He is an outstanding player with an outstanding personality,” Freund told The Independent. “The big clubs have been watching him and if I was them, I’d have no hesitation to sign him. Takumi is ready to make the next step in January.”
Salzburg used the option to extend Minamino contract’s last February to 2021, and without the escape clause, could have comfortably fetched over £25million for the Japan international.
Liverpool’s appreciation of the attacking midfielder pre-dates his impressive displays against them in the Champions League as the club keep a close eye on Salzburg’s talent hub, through which Sadio Mane and Naby Keita have also progressed from.
The Austrian’s are famed for recruiting young players with high ceilings and affording them to opportunity to develop in a professional setting much earlier than would typically be the case.
Minamino fits Jürgen Klopp’s mould of a technically gifted footballer with exceptional workrate, a stellar attitude and the desire for further advancement. His age is ticks the box of Liverpool’s recruitment profile and an added advantage is the commercial opportunities the European champions would gain from his signing.