Minamino challenged to top Kagawa & Honda as Okazaki looks for Liverpool spark from Japan star

Goal.com

Takumi Minamino has been challenged by fellow Japan international Shinji Okazaki to try and top the achievements of Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda at a top European club, with the 25-year-old offered the grandest of stages at Liverpool.

The Reds moved to snap up the highly-rated forward during the January transfer window, with a £7.25 million ($10m) release clause triggered in his contract at Red Bull Salzburg.

Fierce competition for places at Anfield means Minamino will find it tough to secure regular game time, while he is still adjusting to the demands of life in England and the Premier League.

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The hope of those on Merseyside, and back home in Asia, is that a player with plenty of potential to still unlock can flourish in new surroundings and prove himself to be deserving of such an opportunity.

Some illustrious countrymen have experienced mixed fortunes when presented with similar opportunities in the past, with Kagawa flopping at Manchester United, but Minamino is expected to meet his challenges head on.

Okazaki, who savoured Premier League title glory during a stint at Leicester, told the Evening Standard of Minamino: “I watch some of the games on TV and I don't see negative things.

“He plays well with and without the ball. He is getting confidence after he changed team.

“I know the Premier League is the hardest league in the world. Every season they spend a lot of money and Liverpool was the last winner of the Champions League and already had quality in their squad.

“But he can improve himself and I think that’s important for him and Japanese football.

“At first, he just had quality but now he knows how to fight, he is quicker - he changed his style of play in the last two years.”

He added: “The Japanese FA and the fans want to see their players in good teams.

“Some time ago, we had Shinji Kagawa in Manchester, Yuto Nagatomo with Inter, Keisuke Honda in Milan, but they couldn’t show the best level.

“Now, we see that it is time for Japanese football to go to the next step. We need players in Europe playing every week in the biggest teams.”

Minamino linked up with Liverpool saying he had “nothing to lose” in a bid to prove himself under Jurgen Klopp and that he intended to embrace the competition provided by the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane at Anfield.

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