InterviewTakumi Minamino on adapting, taking risks and Carabao Cup hunger
Given everything that's happened, it's worth remembering this will be Takumi Minamino's first full season at Liverpool.
It has been an eventful two-year ride at Anfield so far for the Japan international, who recently passed the milestone of 50 appearances for the Reds.
He's now firmly settled on Merseyside. So much so, this interview with Liverpoolfc.com is his first in English.
"I enjoy this moment and I feel I can help the team," the relaxed and smiling No.18 says. "I will try all my best for the rest of the season."
There's quite a lot to unpack since Minamino's arrival at the turn of 2020.
Jürgen Klopp's side were a well-oiled, winning machine when he signed. He, like plenty of others, needed time to adapt.
But then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, football stopped and Minamino was in a new home where he spoke little or next to no English.
A deadline-day loan to Southampton a year after signing helped the transition. And now, in 2021-22, Minamino has seven goals to his name, with four coming as one of Liverpool's main outlets en route to the Carabao Cup final.
It has been said numerous times in Klopp's press conferences this season that 'Taki is in a good moment'.
Minamino himself has just been determined to make the most of every opportunity handed to him.
He states during our chat at the AXA Training Centre: "This job as a football player is very hard sometimes because not every player can always play 90 minutes, especially me in this situation.
"I want to play for Liverpool. But I've played over 50 times for Liverpool and that's a good thing. I'm very happy about that.
"I want more and I want to help the team more. It's not easy but I just want to try to do everything for that.
"All the players are very kind. When I came here, I couldn't speak any English. Nothing. But I could speak a little bit of German and those players who spoke German – Joel, Sadio, Naby, Shaqiri – I asked them and they could answer in German. It was very helpful, especially in the first season."
Minamino now has the chance to reflect on the hurdles he's already overcome in his Liverpool career.
On the pandemic in particular, he says: "It was a scary, strange and difficult time for me.
"This club, everything was organised well when we went back to training. The club organised everything perfectly and for me it was very easy to get back into football and join the team again.
"This moment was very difficult but now it's fine."
Being out of his comfort zone is a familiar feeling for Liverpool's first Japanese player.
When still a teenager, Minamino took the brave step to leave home in Osaka in order to pursue his footballing ambitions.
He headed to Austria to play for Salzburg, where he enjoyed five successful seasons and the chance to shine on the Champions League stage.
Anfield witnessed first-hand his talents in a pulsating 4-3 encounter – a display that excited everyone a few months before Liverpool pounced to sign the versatile forward.
"When I was young, I already thought my dream was playing in Europe, especially in the Premier League," the 27-year-old recalls. "That was my dream.
"As soon as possible, I wanted to move to Europe to play football. That is a big challenge, especially for Japanese players.
"Fernando Torres and David Villa – when I was young, I watched those two players a lot. They were my idols and I wanted to be like them.
"But if you want to achieve your dreams, you have to take a risk or some big challenges. I like taking risks and challenges."
Inspired: Takumi Minamino's journey from Osaka to Liverpool
Within a few months at Liverpool, the risks were rewarded when Minamino secured a 2019-20 Premier League winner's medal.
He's now searching for the second honour of his Reds career, and will have the chance when he and his teammates take on Chelsea at Wembley in the Carabao Cup's showpiece this Sunday.
Minamino has featured in all five of the side's ties in the tournament this term and admits lifting this particular trophy would produce a different emotion given the role he's played.
"This is a big, big thing for me and for us," he stresses. "I want this title, and the team as well.
"I've played a lot in the Carabao Cup, so of course I want to win the cup. Hopefully I can play the final and give it my best.
"It does feel a little bit different. Because in the Carabao Cup in the first game against Norwich, the second game against Preston, our starting line-up was very different from the league. It feels like something different.
"But for me, every game is important. For me it's a big, big game and I'm happy we're going to the final. I want to win the Carabao Cup."
While he now targets titles achieved as a collective, Minamino was once a Guinness World Records holder.
For a certain period in time, nobody on planet earth had completed more high-fives (187 in total) in a single minute than a youngster from Izumisano.
But don't expect him to attempt to re-take the crown.
Beginning to laugh, he finishes: "I think now the record-holder is not me. But it was funny. It was when I was 18 or 19 years old in Japan and it was a strange story.
"It's a good memory but I don't want to try to do it again because it's very hard on your hand, so I don't want to try again.
"I'm not such an active person. When I have a day off, I just stay in the house and be calm, watching Netflix. This is my style."