It came as a surprise to all when it was announced that Liverpool had agreed a fee for Japanese midfielder Wataru Endo.
After failed bids for young midfielders Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia, a 30-year-old signing was unexpected by everyone. However after a deeper look into the Stuttgart legend, he might be a much better player than first imagined. Here are 5 things you didn't know about Endo.
A Stuttgart Icon
After spending his first eight playing years in Japan, Endo moved to Belgian First Division side Sint-Truiden, before moving to VfB Stuttgart in 2019.
After a slow start to life in Germany, failing to start or impact games, Endo soon began to find his feet with the help of coach Pellegrino Matarazzo. In his first season, Stuttgart sealed a return to the Bundesliga, where they have been ever since.
The 2021/22 season is what Endo will be remembered most for in Germany. In the final game of the season, Stuttgart needed to beat Cologne to avoid a relegation play-off and secure their survival in the Bundesliga. With the clock ticking into stoppage time, and the score 1-1, Endo produced a last-minute header to guarantee survival.
The celebrations were incredible. Manager Matarazzo was seen sprinting on the pitch in the style of Jurgen Klopp after Divok Origi’s last minute winner against Everton in 2018. Cameras struggled to pick out the Japanese international in all the chaos.
A 5 ft 10 Powerhouse
At a relatively small height for a defensive midfielder, Endo certainly doesn’t shy away from a tackle. In his first full season at Stuttgart, he put in 476 challenges, and the stats don’t stop there.
Last season, the Japanese international had the third most ball recoveries in the league for any midfielder, as well as the most headed clearances with 43. For a man who is normally surrounded by much taller players, Endo doesn’t show it.
Ranked with every midfielder in the Bundesliga, Endo also had the eighth most pass completions with 1,164, the ninth most final-third passes with 302 and also the ninth most tackles with 90.
— @LuisDiazzler (@LDBURN3R) August 17, 2023
At the age of 30, it certainly comes as a surprise to see Liverpool signing a player that late in their career. However, with the departures of James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, the Reds are certainly lacking experience in the middle.
Jurgen Klopp’s current oldest midfielder is Spanish maestro Thiago, at 32, followed by Alexis Mac Allister, at 24. The need for a leader in the middle has never been so clear, and as the captain of both Stuttgart and Japan, Endo will certainly help.
He can score
Now this may come as a shock to most Liverpool fans of the last few years: midfielders can score goals. As brilliant as the likes of Fabinho, Henderson, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were, they always lacked an end product. Aside from “Mr Consistent” Milner who couldn’t seem to miss from the penalty spot.
A midfielder who could score goals for the Reds has always been a missing factor in Jurgen Klopp’s team. With the arrivals of Dominik Szoboszlai and Mac Allister, the manager is certainly trying to improve things there, and it looks as if Endo’s goals have made an impact on his signing too.
For a defensive midfielder five league goals for a team battling relegation is certainly a good turnaround. In total, he managed 15 goals in his four-year reign in Germany, as well as the 23 goals scored in his five-year spell at Japanese side Shonan Bellmare.
Endo isn’t being brought in to score goals for Liverpool. That job, thankfully, was sorted much earlier in the transfer window. But if he can help himself to a couple throughout the season, who’s complaining?
Has avoided a Chelsea coup
It may come as a surprise, but Endo has never been on the end of a Chelsea bid, nor a bid from any other English club. Fans at Stuttgart have always been reluctant to let their captain go, and a bid from a Premier League team has always been expected.
“I dream of taking part in the World Cup and playing in the Champions League”. That was Endo in 2021, who was part of the Japan side that defeated Germany in Qatar. With the World Cup mission achieved, a strong season in Merseyside might just bring his European dreams to reality.