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Soccer: Takumi Minamino eyes 1st Champions League final appearance by Japanese

Takumi Minamino of Liverpool scores a goal in a Premier League match against Southampton at Saint Mary's Stadium in Southampton on May 17, 2022. (Getty/Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- After more than playing his part in Liverpool's two domestic cup runs only to miss both finals, attacker Takumi Minamino is eyeing minutes on the pitch when they take on Real Madrid in the final of the Champions League near Paris on Saturday.

    The 27-year-old would become the first Japanese to play in the final of the European clubs' premier competition as Liverpool aim to secure the cup treble after winning both the League Cup and FA Cup in England this season.

    "No one from Japan has ever stood on the (Champions League) final's pitch, so I want to do that," said Minamino, whose fine scoring form this term has seen him net 10 goals despite playing only some 1,000 minutes across all four competitions.

    Four of the goals came in the League Cup and three in the FA Cup as he became their top scorer in both competitions. But all the goals came in the early rounds of each tournament and the regular starters returned for the two finals as Liverpool beat Chelsea both on penalties at Wembley.

    "I didn't play in either final so (I've contributed to) about half of them," he said on winning the titles, although the big role he played in each campaign was recognized by football fans who voted him into the FA Cup's team of the season.

    With Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota and January signing Luis Diaz all ahead of him in the battle for three attacking positions, Minamino had to wait until the penultimate fixture to start in the Premier League this term.

    He responded emphatically by scoring a thumping equalizer as Liverpool came from behind to win 2-1 at his former club Southampton and stay in the title race last Tuesday. Jurgen Klopp said after the match it was a "crime" he is not playing Minamino more often because of the talents the manager has at his disposal.

    "When you try to prove yourself in a limited amount of time, scoring goals is the only option. I was absolutely fixated on that this season," said Minamino, who scored three goals in just 178 minutes over 11 league games.

    Having missed out on the league title on Sunday after Manchester City clinched it in a dramatic manner, Liverpool and Minamino will hope to finish the historic quadruple-chasing season on a high against Real Madrid at Stade de France.

    Entering his prime age as a footballer while seeing limited game time, Minamino hopes to make his future clear in the summer over his Liverpool future. But it will be only after the clash between two of Europe's most successful sides, and a potentially big night for him and his country's footballing history.

    "I have Japan matches too (in June) and there will be no time to rest up, but I'll think about my future after the Champions League final," he said. "First I'm concentrating on the match."

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