The potential of Takumi Minamino continues to excite those behind the scenes at Liverpool despite his limited first-team opportunities to date.
The 26-year-old’s settling-in period at Anfield has been anything but smooth sailing, with a pandemic, loan switch and competition for places making a breakthrough tough going.
In his 31 appearances to date, Minamino has offered glimpses of the player Reds knew him to be while at Salzburg; an intelligent mover, confident finisher and playmaker.
Liverpool saw some of it throughout pre-season, having scored three goals in five appearances, but he has since only been an unused substitute on five occasions.
On the whole, it just has not happened for him so far, but he is considered a “long-term project” by Jurgen Klopp and it was reiterated by his assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders.
Fronting the media in place of the German ahead of the League Cup tie, Lijnders spoke highly of the Japan international and his potential – with time needed to unlock it.
“Taki had a really good pre-season and I think it was really important for him after going to Southampton,” Lijnders said.
“What was a good decision at the time is that he came back and had a complete pre-season with us, training-wise.
“He made an impact in the pre-season, we were really enthusiastic about him and then he had a small issue, with the national team, but he is back now.
“He was not 100 percent fit because he came back early but now he is good to go.
“And I said, ‘It shows that you don’t need super, super speed to go one vs one with the goalkeeper’.
“He’s a very natural, intelligent mover. That’s what we need.
“He has good timings to move in behind, good combination play when the players are close to him so he can only become better.
“That’s what we like. That’s why we brought him in at the time, we saw the potential, not the end product.”
It is anticipated that he will be handed his first minutes of the season at Norwich in the League Cup as part of a much-changed side, with the hope being he can build toward having a regular impact.
So far, Klopp has opted for the likes of Curtis Jones, Divock Origi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to take the place of his regular attackers from the bench.