Spritely Liverpool midfielder Takumi Minamino has spent the second half of the season on loan at Southampton while Jurgen Klopp quietly plots his future.
Ralph Hasenhuttl is insistent that he is happy and impressed with what he is seeing from the illustrious and enterprising Liverpool loanee Minamino during his temporary stay with the club, despite the Japan international not having been able to maintain his initial blistering pace at St Mary’s since making his deadline day switch from Anfield.
Minamino’s critics were vocal once again on Saturday after he failed to make an impact during the Saints’ 3-1 win over Fulham and, speaking to HampshireLive, the Southampton coach was asked for his opinion why things are not working out for the 26-year-old.
However, his answer was as unexpected as it was surprising, respectfully disagreeing with the critics as he praised the 26-year-old for his valiant efforts.
“I must say, I was not unhappy with him,” he said. “The first half, he was good. The second half, you could see that it was his second game in four or five days.
“He hasn’t played so much in the past so it is normal that you then have a few moments where you struggle.
“He worked hard against the ball,” he continued. “I like this player. He has some very good movements and is enjoying his work, I think, also.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has already made his stance clear on Minamino’s future, telling Liverpool fans that he believes he will one day step up to be an important player on Merseyside.
Currently, the Saints have no plans in the pipeline to launch a summer move for his services on a permanent basis, as they are with Theo Walcott.
“When we allowed him to go in January it was a tough call to make because he is an important player for us and will be again in the future, no doubt,” Klopp said.
“But opportunities at that time had been short with us and therefore going to play somewhere else made sense for him and us.
“Southampton was perfect because of how Ralph plays and what he demands from his players.”