Liverpool have a decision to make on Takumi Minamino ahead of the summer transfer window, with the forward having already played 1.4 times as many Premier League minutes for Southampton this season than he had for the Reds.
Minamino has scored twice for Southampton and is yet to assist, with both strikes coming in the first three matches of his time at St Mary’s, against Newcastle, Wolves and then Chelsea.
Since that initial good spell, though, even though he has played far more for his loan club than Liverpool, his minutes have been slightly more limited and his impact has lessened too.
“We asked Hasenhuttl about Minamino after the Brighton defeat [Southampton’s last league game before the international break] where he did not quite live up to the early quality that he showed with those early goals,” Leach said.
“He had a quiet game and was quiet for long periods. Hasenhuttl just said that he expects more from Minamino and he pulled him off after 65 minutes.
“But it has not been a great time to join the side with Southampton’s form. Hasenhuttl said ‘no one is good around him at the minute, so how can we expect him to be doing that well?’.”
Southampton are understood to like the player – they were surprised at his availability in January and jumped at the chance to bring him in – and initially would have been interested at the right price as Hasenhuttl bids to add more depth to his squad in the summer.
Even though Jurgen Klopp has publicly stated that the loan move was purely temporary to give Minamino more chances on the pitch, there remains a possibility that he could depart.
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So far, though, Hasenhuttl, judging by those comments, does not trust Minamino fully yet, either, with a maximum of nine matches left of the attacker’s loan spell for him to change that.
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“It has been a real challenge and it would have been interesting to see him there earlier in the season [when Southampton were around the European places and in good form],” Leach continued.
“It will be interesting, too, for the remainder of the season because Theo Walcott is coming back – he has got a couple of weeks left of his injury – and it will be Walcott on the right and Minamino on the left.
“But the front four at Southampton, they don’t stick to where they are – it is all very flexible and it will be interesting how they fit together.