Jurgen Klopp’s phone has been pinging all week, with text messages from former players, coaches and friends back home in Germany stating a clear general consensus: Wataru Endo, Liverpool’s third summer signing, could be an almighty smart piece of business.
The Japan captain did not warrant a multi-club tussle for his signature like British record Moises Caicedo, or the clamour of highly-wanted 19-year-old Romeo Lavia – but he has many attributes that left Klopp grinning from cheek to cheek.
At 30 years old, Endo breaks Liverpool’s usual policy of signing young talents and growing them into world-beaters, but Klopp believes he is on to a winner – and his friends back at Mainz and Borussia Dortmund agree after watching him grow at Stuttgart in the Bundesliga.
‘I got plenty of messages from former players of mine and stuff like this,’ Klopp told the Liverpool website yesterday, after the club confirmed the £16.2million addition of the midfielder on a deal that runs until 2027.
‘Everybody was like, “If it’s true, this is a genius strike, I asked to sign him for years” and stuff like this. It was a very positive thing in Germany – he’s super-highly respected. He is really happy to join us, which is nice as well.’
At 30 years old, Endo breaks Liverpool’s usual policy of signing young talents and growing them into world-beaters
Endo has many attributes that left Jurgen Klopp delighted to have completed a bargain deal
The former Stuttgart captain signed a deal that will keep him at the club until 2027
So after publicly courting Belgian teenager Lavia for the whole summer and then making a late play to break the British transfer record for Caicedo – both of whom ended up at Chelsea – why did Klopp and director of football Jorg Schmadtke change tact and go for Endo?
The pair are said to be buoyed by three main traits. Endo’s versatility – he can play at full-back or centre-back as well – is a big selling point, while his impressive injury record brings a reliability that Liverpool have lacked in recent years and he brings leadership qualities.
Since his first season in the Bundesliga, Endo ranks highest for most possession won in the defensive third (254), most aerial duels won (219), most clearances (175) and most headed clearances (105). He is also adept in possession.
As Japan captain, the Reds now have five players who are official skipper of their national team: Andy Robertson at Scotland, Dominik Szoboszlai at Hungary, Virgil Van Dijk at the Netherlands and Mo Salah at Egypt.
Endo has an outstanding availability record having missed only two matches for Stuttgart in recent seasons – one due to Covid and the other because of concussion protocols.
Liverpool are still weighing up other targets but now believe their bargaining position has strengthened, as Endo’s signing makes them look less desperate. ‘We are definitely still in the market watching and seeing what is going on and what we can do,’ added Klopp.
The German was slightly at odds with the owners over the signing, as Liverpool’s hierarchy were unsure on ditching the usual transfer policy to buy a 30-year-old. But Klopp took no convincing and has been studying Endo for a significant amount of time.
‘It is a transfer that is not in the public eye,’ added Klopp. ‘It’s not “Oh my God!” and probably nobody at this moment is making a new song for him. But wait. He has something that Liverpool supporters will love, definitely.
Endo is the second national team captain Liverpool have recruited this season and the fifth in the squad in total
He could prove to be the ideal James Milner (pictured) replacement, who left at the end of the season to join Premier League side Brighton
‘He is already used to (the colour) red a little bit, so that’s good… and when he puts that shirt on he will throw everything on the pitch and the people will love that, I know that. We had this with James Milner a little bit.’
By that, Klopp means that Milner was also signed at the peak of his career rather than his early years. ‘Milner arrived here when he was 29, not that anyone ever underestimated Milly,’ said Klopp. ‘One of the best players and characters I ever met in my life.
‘Wataru in a different way can have a similar impact. He was a late bloomer, a really good footballer, 5ft 10in but jumps through a ceiling, that is good. He has 50 caps for Japan, when you see him running around now there is no chance anyone would give him 30 years.
‘He doesn’t look old enough to drive a car, on the pitch he looks like a monster. We will see how much time it takes, we need him that is clear. I am really happy these kinds of stories are still possible in this crazy world of football, it feels just right.’
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