Wataru Endo’s rise: From an eyebrow-raising signing to a worrying miss – Liverpool FC

Wataru Endo's rise: From an eyebrow-raising signing to a worrying miss - Liverpool FC


Not too long ago, the motives behind a move for a 30-year-old from Stuttgart were being brought into question. Now, fans are left wondering how the side will cope without Wataru Endo over the coming weeks.

The collapse of the Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia pursuits in the summer meant many were eager to find out where the astronomical sums being talked about were going to be deployed instead.

Liverpool were set to break the British transfer record to bring Caicedo to Anfield but were left with their tail somewhat between their legs when the Ecuadorian, and subsequently Lavia, opted to head for Stamford Bridge instead.

It became impossible to hide from the fact that money was waiting on the table for the right player, the notion that the club had to operate within their means in the window would no longer wash.

Jurgen Klopp was still without a defensive midfielder and the means required to get one were there for all to see.

Along came Endo, one for the European football hipsters.


Luck and judgement

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 6, 2023: Liverpool's Wataru Endo during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. Liverpool won 2-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It was a player few could honestly say they knew a great deal about, and his value made it clear that Liverpool had moved to a different market to do their shopping.

We live in an age where transfer windows have become their own event. The concept of ‘winning’ the transfer window is something that people seem to genuinely concern themselves with.

So the thought of acquiring a player for a price seven times less than the previous target, while expecting him to do the same job, was one that raised eyebrows.

Fast forward six months and, once again, the self-proclaimed transfer gurus have been shown that there is always a method to the madness.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 29, 2023: Liverpool's Wataru Endo during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

During the recent Anfield Road test event when Klopp felt he could open up slightly more than usual given the audience, the manager joked: “My god, were we lucky!”

And weren’t we just. Instant gratification is something we are all guilty of, but none more so than a football fan who supports a team trying to win the league title.

Nobody knows how things would have panned out had Caicedo landed at Anfield, but we can say with a fair degree of certainty that he isn’t seven times the player.


The benefit of experience

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 30, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp makes a triple substitution bringing on Wataru Endo, Ibrahima Konate and Trent Alexander-Arnold during the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Endo’s age was a primary cause for concern when he arrived at the club for £16.25 million back in August.

He was the third of four midfield summer arrivals, and the oldest by six years.

It is not a market Liverpool typically shop in, and perhaps that is why so many were perplexed and trying to deduce exactly what it was he was being brought in to do.

The reality is that the squad had just lost its two most influential leaders, and with that, vast amounts of experience.

We are used to seeing the Reds target exciting players on the low side of 25, and that looked to be the direction of travel when the interest in Caicedo and Lavia became obvious.

That is perhaps why so many found it hard to believe that Endo was part of a more wide-reaching plan. If you’d asked the recruitment team to draw up their ideal profile of player to fill the No. 6 void, what were they looking for?

It later transpired that Endo had caught the eye of the manager three years before his arrival, when the Japan captain joked with then Liverpool forward Takumi Minamino about telling Klopp that he was younger than he really was.

To think that the club don’t do their due diligence in such dealings is simply naivety, there have been countless examples in recent years to prove that this isn’t the case.


Patience is a virtue

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, October 5, 2023: Liverpool's Wataru Endo during the UEFA Europa League Group E matchday 2 game between Liverpool FC and Union SG at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Expecting a player making a huge leap in terms of club stature – not to mention in a new league – to do so seamlessly and quickly isn’t realistic.

Of course, we want players to hit the ground running because we are aware that seasons are only nine months long and there are trophies to be won.

If Endo was to be our only specialist No. 6 in the squad then the pressure was on him to be at it from the outset, particularly if one of his plus points was his experience and knowhow.

Andy Robertson and Fabinho are two shining examples that adapting to life in a Klopp team doesn’t happen overnight.

Both have European Cup and Premier League medals in their houses, both were an integral part of the most successful period in the club’s recent history and both struggled to nail down a regular place when they first arrived.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 3, 2023: Liverpool's Wataru Endo celebrates after scoring the third goal to equalise and level the score at 3-3 during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. Liverpol won 4-3. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Fans can be quick to write players off if they don’t see what they think they should see from minute one, as was the case when Luiz Diaz came through the door.

Diaz was the outlier and exception to that rule, if you are relying on that happening every time then you are in deep trouble, regardless of the price.

Endo will be away for a minimum of four games, but if he leads Japan all the way to the final of the Asian Cup then that could rise to as many as eight.

The very fact that this is now a genuine worry among supporters is a testament to how much his role within the squad has grown in recent weeks, particularly when forced to step up in the absence of Alexis Mac Allister.

Maybe it’s time we left this sort of thing to the experts.


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