anyone from Salzburg who takes a stroll with Takumi Minamino through the city is sure to see it from a very different, almost magical side. things that people who live here take for granted as part of usual everyday life or just old are often unique and incredible from the perspective of the young japanese player. TAkumi's enthusiasm for his new local area is really striking.
With our new series Half-time in Salzburg we want to regularly chart the development of our young talents as they develop at FC Red Bull Salzburg onto greater things in European football. Who better to feature in our very first article than Takumi Minamino? We went along with Oscar Garcia's hottest attacking property through Salzburg as part of an exclusive Sound of Music Tour taking visitors to the shooting locations of the film. This was a unique experience for Takumi, who knows the film inside out, and enjoyed the chance to rekindle some fond childhood memories.
dreams and aims
Takumi is clearly happy in Salzburg! He spent hours wandering with us through the narrow streets of Salzburg's old town, and constantly kept a friendly smile on his face. the FC Red Bull Salzburg youngster deserves to be in good spirits, after all, as he knows that he is on a good path to developing with the Red Bulls to achieve his aims in football.
A quick glance at the way his performance data has developed compared to at his last club Cerezo Osaka shows that Takumi's form has raced upwards with the Red Bulls. That is despite the fact that since the autumn, coach Oscar Garcia has been mostly selecting the young Japanese man as a substitute and bringing him on when needed. Takumi has gladly accepted this role and has made the most of it. Impressively, despite the comparative lack of playing time, he is the second top scorer at the club this season, behind Dimitri Oberlin, and is the fourth highest scorer in the Austrian Bundesliga with a total of nine goals. Takumi has scored an amazing 2.04 goals per every 90 minutes of action this season. That kind of figure has only been matched by Jonatan Soriano for the Red Bulls in recent years.
Competition and pressure
Oscar Garcia may have been keeping the 22-year-old Japanese midfielder on a close leash so far, but Takumi has without doubt matured over the past two years to become a much more open and confident man. He himself sees the decision of the coach to use him primarily as a substitute as a motivation to develop further:
Of course I would like to play more, but our coach has a plan for all of us. For me too. I know, for example, that he wants me to play when we need goals quickly in a match. That drives me on and gives me confidence. I understand too why I don't have much playing time at the moment. He has told me what I need to improve on, and I am working hard to gain his faith.
We wanted to know more about that, of course, and he told us, very calmly - as if it were one of the most natural things in the world to talk about your own weaknesses:
I need to learn to keep the ball better like Jonny, and I'll learn to do that.
The few Asians in European football are known for their speed and tactical discipline. There is another ability that makes players like Takumi stand out in the European transfer market though:
In comparison to the African players, for instance, who are quick and strong, we Asians are quick and agile. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these player types. Most of our opponents in the Austrian league have tall defenders who can tackle well, and my agility is sometimes an advantage against them. The biggest difficulty for me at the beginning was learning to be a bit more creative in front of goal. That is going a lot better by now.
Idols and role models
Takumi took a big step two years ago when he left Osaka for Europe for the first time. He was soon able to integrate into the team, and made friends quickly.
I talk a lot with Hee Chan, of course, and we get along very well as we come from similar cultures. Alex, Andi and Jonny when he was here looked after me a lot from the start and really helped me to integrate into the team. Andi is not only a friend for me but also a big role model. You can see from his professional attitude to sport what you can achieve as a pro when you look after yourself and your body. He is always there to lend a helping hand to us younger players too.
away from the pitch
Alongside his career in professional football, Takumi has some linguistic ambitions:
I really like the German language. I really enjoy learning it, even if it can be tough at times between training sessions. The more I understand the language, the more I understand European culture, and that is very interesting indeed. I can well imagine that I'd want to learn another language at some point.
He's clearly not just saying that for the sake of it. As we enjoy a coffee at Schloss Leopoldskron, he picks up a children's book that has been left around and reads out from it without being asked to. He was also impressed by the library at the Schloss, which was named after Max Reinhardt, and was happy to answer some of our questions in German.
What better way could there be to end a lovely afternoon in Salzburg than by paying a visit to Hotel Sacher. Our top Japanese striker celebrated another first on the terrace of the grand hotel, getting to enjoy a Salzburg Nockerl dessert for the first time.
Despite his fascination at the form of the traditional treat as it was served at Hotel Sacher, he couldn't hide his initial scepticism. That made his smile after his first bite all the better to see. He came back for more too!