Klopp says Elliott return is stuff of 'fairy tales'
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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp could hardly hide his delight after Luis Diaz and Harvey Elliott stole the show during the Reds’ 3-1 win over Cardiff City in the FA Cup on Sunday.
While it was Diogo Jota and Takumi Minamino who netted the goals that put Liverpool in cruise control, it was Elliott’s late strike and Diaz’s cameo that stole the headlines on Sunday.
But spare a thought for Minamino – who despite being consigned to the shadows once again, continues to silently keep his Anfield career alive.
While the cut-price £7.25million deal to prise Minamino away from Red Bull Salzburg two years ago was hardly a high-risk one, the move for the Japanese star has failed to pay off.
Minamino failed to find the net during his first season at the club after arriving in January and followed that up with an underwhelming second year, where he netted just a solitary Premier League goal.
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And despite making a promising start to a six-month loan at Southampton last year by netting on his debut, Minamino’s brief stint on the south coast quickly fizzled out to leave his position at Anfield looking precarious.
But the 27-year-old has quietly rekindled his form this term – even if it hasn’t been enough to muscle in ahead of the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
Minamino’s strike on Sunday was his seventh in 19 games this term. While that tally may not exactly seem ground-breaking, especially when compared to some of his Liverpool colleagues, when you factor in that Minamino has tasted just over 800 minutes of football this season, those figures, suddenly, look a lot more impressive.
But his goal against Cardiff on Saturday may have highlighted why his time at Anfield is more than likely numbered.
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In a way, it’s quite ironic that Minamino’s goal was teed up by the slick footwork of Liverpool’s new £49m man, Diaz.
Understandably, the focus has been more on who provided the goal rather than the person who actually tucked it away to kill off any hopes of a Cardiff fightback. After all, it’s quite likely that it will be Diaz who is slowly integrated into the Reds attacking trifecta during the remainder of the season rather than Minamino.
But he has done enough to warrant another opportunity to slink his way into Klopp’s plans during his limited cameos this year.
With a plethora of attacking talent ahead of him in the ranks, however, it appears inevitable that his long-term future lies away from Anfield – especially given that Klopp has even preferred to utiilise Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain in an unorthodox wide forward role ahead of the ex-Salzburg man.
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With Diaz preferring to operate on the left flank and with Salah’s contract saga rumbling on, it feels as though Liverpool have missed a trick by persevering with Oxlade-Chamberlain over the past few weeks rather than giving Minamino a sustained run of minutes during Salah’s exploits with Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations.
He certainly didn’t look out of place filling in for Salah alongside Jota on Sunday, albeit, against lower league opposition.
It’s unlikely he’ll get the chance to prove his credentials for good now that Salah is jetting back to spearhead Liverpool’s title charge – even if he deserves one.
And that could prove costly if the Reds fail to find a resolution to their current contract standoff with Salah.
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