When Liverpool played their first Anfield Champions League game back in 2019/20, an unknown player among opposition ranks caught the Reds’ eye.
As Jurgen Klopp’s side stumbled to a 4-3 victory over Red Bull Salzburg, outside attention was on soon-to-be global superstar Erling Haaland but those of a Liverpool persuasion were left impressed by another on the night.
The Japan international scored his side’s second on the night as the Austrians fought back from 3-0 down, only to see Mohamed Salah score the winner for Klopp’s side.
Reds players left the pitch waxing lyrical about their future team-mate, unaware that Liverpool were already plotting their move and would land Minamino in a £7.25m the following January.
READ MORE: Liverpool player ratings as Jordan Henderson and Divock Origi impress in Milan win
Just short of two years since the forward made his first impact on the Reds, and it’s still yet to really happen for him at Anfield, though he is certain to get his opportunities in the season ahead.
Supporters might have urged in vain for their side to sign a new forward in the summer, with Salah and Sadio Mane set to depart for Africa Cup of Nations duty in January, but in the absence of that new arrival, Minamino is the likely man to step up and deputise.
Yet when Liverpool kick-started their latest Champions League campaign at Anfield against AC Milan, it was Divock Origi that Klopp turned to after deciding to leave Mane on the bench and with Roberto Firmino injured, though the Belgian would be forced off himself by injury.
Such a decision inevitably caused further raised eyebrows and prompted further supporter disdain at the club’s decision to only bring in Ibrahima Konate in the summer, with unease also still present at the decision not to sign a replacement for Gini Wijnaldum following his Bosman transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.
In the opening weeks of the season, Reds bosses could have perhaps pointed to the emergence of Harvey Elliott as justification for such decisions, with the 18-year-old shining in midfield and having previously been utilised as a winger in his fledging career.
But this dislocated ankle he suffered at Leeds United on Sunday would have offered an unwanted reminder at how quickly the wrong injury at the wrong time can set off a chain reaction of events that derail a season.
Liverpool have plenty of bodies in attack and plenty of bodies in midfield, but scratch beneath the surface after a couple of injuries and those questions about strength in depth remain.
Before the transfer window closed in August, Klopp remained bullish as he defended his midfielder options. After it shut, he remained adamant he didn’t need to sign a new forward despite Salah and Mane’s impending mid-season departure.
But depending on the longevity of Elliott’s absence, you do wonder whether he might be forced into a re-think.
However, one man who was linked with the Reds throughout the summer, and was given an audition against Klopp’s side on Wednesday night much like Minamino two years ago, is not the answer. In the short term at least.
With his contract at AC Milan expiring next summer, Liverpool are one of a number of clubs who continue to be linked with Franck Kessie, with reports in Italy last week even suggesting the Serie A outfit could attempt to offload the wantaway midfielder to Anfield as part of an ambitious swoop for Thiago Alcantara.
If the 24-year-old does have his eyes set on playing for Klopp’s side, he will have done little against the Reds to leave Liverpool fans longing for his instant signing.
Of course, that is not necessarily a bad thing with an eye-catching performance against the Reds not a guaranteed sign of an influential Liverpool career as Minamino has so far demonstrated.
But that doesn’t mean Kessie is the answer for Klopp in midfield either.
Solid if not spectacular, he was a physical presence for AC Milan in the engine room as they ultimately came out second best against the Reds’ trio of Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita and Fabinho.
For fans hoping he could be a Wijnaldum replacement, he demonstrated anything but.
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Showcasing a defensive performance, as demonstrated by not even attempting any dribbles, never mind shots on goal, he played the most passes (40) and enjoying the most touches (57) outside of Milan’s back five.
Meanwhile, his total of three interceptions was the most amongst the Italians while only Fikayo Tomori could better his total of four blocks from either side.
But he lost possession more times (five) and committed more fouls (three) than anyone else on the pitch.
In other words, while a talented player he was utilised as a number six against Liverpool and one nowhere near as effective as Fabinho.
And when you already have one of the very best holding midfielders in world football, with Jordan Henderson the perfect deputy, another anchorman is not the answer.
While he might be free to speak to overseas clubs in January ahead of his contract expiring, when you consider he is also an Ivory Coast international, he too will suffer the same mid-season fate as Salah and Mane with Africa Cup of Nations excursions and appears even less of a viable option as a result.
When Klopp was defending his own midfield options ahead of his side’s clash with Chelsea last month, he said: “If the one player who is really the one who could improve all the things we have spoken out, we would go for him, I promise, if we would see him.”
On this evidence, despite speculated links and fans’ potential transfer desire, Kessie is not that player.