Takumi Minamino 21 Midfielder Red Bull Salzburg Japan
When Takumi Minamino, fresh from inclusion in #IBWM100, moved from Cerezo Osaka to Red Bull Salzburg, the general feeling was that he’d take time to find his feet. His introduction to Austrian football proved otherwise; Minamino quickly demonstrated that he’s a noteworthy talent and adaptable to new circumstances at the drop of a hat.
2016 has been…
A year of two halves. Having joined Salzburg in the middle of 2014/15 and won the double twice by the middle of this year, Minamino’s upward trajectory has evaporated in a matter of months. In the first half of 2016 he was part of the squad that won the AFC Under-23 Championship in January (partially in his absence at the request of his club) and last season he featured in 32 Bundesliga games, starting ten.
This season he’s fallen out of favour. Wanderson and Valentino Lazaro seem to have the wing positions locked up, and even Wanderson’s injury in mid-October hasn’t brought him back to a regular start. He is scoring when he plays, however, and one has to wonder what negative effect missing the start of the season for the Olympics might have had on his campaign.
There’s no doubting Minamino’s ability. Roaming around from the wing, he pops up all over the attacking line. His awareness, balance, strength and goalscoring were skills we reported on last year, along with his extraordinary engine and the fact that he’s technically very impressive.
Our challenge to him then was to address a tendency to drift in and out of games too easily. This year, his task is even bigger. The work ethic and energy that underpin his game must be obvious every time Óscar García calls him into the starting line-up.
That’s his trump card, and it’s worth noting that a player of Minamino’s type would be seeing more playing time in a Salzburg side that needed leads defended from the front more frequently than they have this season.
Minamino failed to add to his meagre collection of senior international caps in 2016, and breaking back into contention for Japan is just as vital to his development as a steady reintroduction to the Salzburg team. Of course, neither absence alleviates the other, and Minamino needs to find a foothold. The 4-2-4 / 4-2-2-2 sometimes deployed seemingly across Red Bull’s European empire would seem to suit him perfectly.
Nevertheless, we’re compelled to ask whether Red Bull is the best place for him at present. Borussia Mönchengladbach’s reported interest in the summer feels a long time ago now, but a loan at the very least might do Minamino the world of good. Something, anything, to give him competitive football and a chance to regain his momentum.
D Tumbling down the pecking order
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