Southampton FC manager Ralph Hasenhuttl is right to feel more than an ounce of pride watching Japan international Takumi Minamino enjoy his best run to date under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.
The 26-year-old spent the second half of last season on loan at St Mary’s, with the Saints offering to help the former RB Salzburg star find his footing in the Premier League after a rocky start at Anfield.
Minamino arrived in Merseyside at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and struggled to readjust to life in England during the lockdown, most often leaving him to watch his teammates from the bench or even the stands.
Since returning from his loan spell with Hasenhuttl at Staplewood, the creative midfielder has scored four goals for Liverpool and has played a role in each of the club’s last five games.
During his time on the South Coast, Hasenhuttl was so impressed with Minamino that he insisted that talks bring him back for a second season, but Klopp was keen to give him a second chance at Anfield.
“I was absolutely happy to work with him,” Hasenhuttl said with a smile as he addressed HampshireLive ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Reds. âHe was a fantastic character and I really enjoyed that.
âMinamino fits in perfectly with our squad, definitely. He had a few good games and scored a few good goals for us. He was a big help in the number ten position.
âYou can see, now that he’s back at Liverpool he has his chances to play. Jurgen offers him chances and he takes them – and that’s with the massive challenge of incredible and strong forwards.
“Salah and Mane still want to play, even in the Champions League [with Liverpool having already qualified for the last 16] they don’t want to leave the team, they want to score goals and if they don’t, they’re not happy. “
Minamino’s next challenge will be to prove Klopp that he deserves a place in Liverpool’s starting lineup and, in Hasenhuttl’s eyes, there is already a perfect position in their form for him to fit in.
Hasenhuttl said: âIf it weren’t for Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota, in that deeper number ten position it would be just perfect for Taki.
âIt’s not easy to play in front of these players, and that’s what a Champions League winning team is!
He added, “He’s such a great character and I’m always happy to see him play games.”