Exclusive: Francis Benali lauds Takumi Minamino ahead of Southampton's FA Cup semi-final vs Leicester

Takumi Minamino

Takumi Minamino's career hasn't quite taken flight since he arrived in the Premier League from Red Bull Salzburg. 

The Japan international was viewed as a shrewd signing when Liverpool completed a £7.25m deal in January 2020, but he struggled to make an impact at Anfield while competing with the likes of Sadio Mane and Mo Salah for a place in the starting XI. 

Since his move to Southampton, though, Minamino has shown flashes of brilliance that suggest he could yet find his feet in English football.

Minamino is ineligible for Southampton in their FA Cup semi-final clash with Leicester City at Wembley on Sunday, and club legend Francis Benali views his absence as a blow.

The Saints cult hero spoke exclusively to GIVEMESPORT ahead of a season-defining encounter for his former club, and he was full of effusive praise for Minamino.

"He's had an impact, a big impact coming in.

"His goal against Chelsea was just incredible. The finish, the timing of the run, his touch, the way he sat everybody down before calmly slotting it home was fabulous and he scored on his debut against Newcastle as well. He'll be a loss not being able to figure."

The 26-year-old attacking midfielder has made six appearances since arriving at St Mary's Stadium but the initial flurry of excitement he brought to the club has faded somewhat in recent weeks. 

Hasenhuttl opted not to bring him off the bench in the club's two most recent encounters against Burnley and West Bromwich Albion, favouring Stuart Armstrong and Theo Walcott in wide positions in both games. 

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Boyhood Southampton star Walcott has featured heavily in the side since re-signing for the club on a season-long loan, but it remains to be seen whether his or Minamino's stays are made permanent. 

With Southampton languishing in 14th place in the Premier League following a bright season opening, Benali believes the club will already be looking ahead to the summer window for new talent.

"I'm sure Ralph, and the board will be looking at every possibility with loan players and things like that. They (Walcott and Minamino) could become permanent, who knows.

"I'm sure there'll be other faces, new faces, the club want to bring in. And there's certain areas where it's quite clear and obvious that we need some strengthening."

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