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12:44 PM GMT

  • Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

Liverpool have moved ahead of Manchester United in the race to sign FC Salzburg forward Takumi Minamino, with sources having told ESPN the Anfield club have agreed to trigger the Japan international’s £7.25 million release clause in January.

Minamino, 24, impressed Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp during Salzburg’s two Champions League Group E fixtures this season and sources have said the club’s sporting director, Michael Edwards, has negotiated with the Austrian champions after discovering the nature of the player’s clause.

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Salzburg sporting director Christoph Freund appeared to confirm this in a news conference ahead of their clash with Hartberg, where he said: “I won’t comment on contract details. But it’s true there are talks with Liverpool.

“It’s an honour for our club that the current Champions League winners and other big clubs are looking at our players.”

Asked whether a January transfer is happen, he added: “That could be possible.”

United had been monitoring Minamino at the same time as intensively scouting Norwegian forward Erling Haaland, his 19-year-old Salzburg teammate.

Marcel Bout, United’s global head of scouting, watched Haaland and Minamino in person this week during Liverpool’s 2-0 victory in Salzburg on Tuesday.

But sources have told ESPN that Liverpool have now accelerated their interest in Minamino after learning of United’s efforts to sign the former Cerezo Osaka forward.

Liverpool had also been told of interest from a number of Bundesliga and Serie A clubs.

With Liverpool having believed Minamino’s true value is in excess of £20m, sources have told ESPN that that the Premier League leaders are now confident of striking a deal at £7.25m in time for the opening of the January transfer window.

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