Surprise Addition: Wataru Endo Joins Liverpool as Fifth International Captain
In a unique twist, Liverpool Football Club boasts not one, not two, but five international captains within their ranks. The most recent addition, Japan's Wataru Endo, openly acknowledges that his transfer came as a 'surprise.' However, he firmly believes that Jurgen Klopp's decision to bring him in to plug the midfield gap left by Jordan Henderson and Fabinho was no accident.
Endo's move from Stuttgart was a hastily arranged affair, finalized just days before the transfer window slammed shut, as Liverpool narrowly missed out on Moises Caicedo to Chelsea. What's even more intriguing is that, at 30 years of age, Endo doesn't quite fit the mold of Liverpool's typical younger signings. Nevertheless, the team remains undefeated in the four matches he's participated in, with another outing likely at Brighton, especially with Curtis Jones serving a suspension.
Endo reflects on his surprise arrival, saying, "It was a surprise to Liverpool fans for me to come here, but the manager knew me very well as a player. That was a very important thing. I had conversations with him. He told me Liverpool were such an attacking team; they needed a number six, a defensive midfielder. That's why I came."
Endo's past exposure to Klopp's style, notably during the manager's Dortmund days, played a pivotal role in his decision. "I watched his matches when he was at Dortmund because my ex-coach liked to copy Klopp's style of me," Endo adds. "He (Klopp) told me that he'd known of me when I was at Stuttgart."
In recent times, Liverpool's success hinged on the midfield trio of James Milner, Henderson, and Gini Wijnaldum, complementing the renowned front three comprising Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane. Endo's strengths aim to create new opportunities, allowing Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister the freedom to shine.
Endo joins a locker room teeming with leaders. The likes of Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands), Andy Robertson (Scotland), Mo Salah (Egypt), and Szoboszlai (Hungary) serve as captains for their respective national teams. One of Endo's Japan teammates, Kaoru Mitoma, plays for Brighton. Enthusiastic fans in Tokyo, Osaka, and Yokohama are sure to stay up late to watch their countrymen in action on Sunday.
Endo's impressive integration into the dressing room is evident, as he's well-versed in English from his time in Germany, and his children, who attend an international school, recently joined him in Merseyside. Reflecting on the differences between the Bundesliga and the Premier League, Endo notes, "The Bundesliga is also fast and strong. The difference here is the German teams like to sit back more when they defend; here at Liverpool, we always press high."
As for his role on the pitch, Endo insists, "What I do in a game hasn't changed from what I did with Stuttgart and the national team. Whatever game I watch, I look out for the No6 position to see how they play. The first couple of games were difficult because we went down to 10 men. I think I've adapted and showing my best on the pitch. I feel more comfortable, and it helps that the other players are also beginning to know me better."
Klopp's recent decision to withdraw Endo and Mo Salah at halftime during a Europa League win against Union Saint-Gilloise indicates that he sees the Japanese star as a starter at the Amex.
Notably, Endo is just the 12th Japanese player to grace the Premier League. He, along with Mitoma and Arsenal's Takehiro Tomiyasu, are the sole Japanese players in the league at present. Therefore, the upcoming game carries significant bragging rights in the Far East.
Endo is excited to face Mitoma and comments, "It will be a pleasure to face Mitoma. There aren't that many Japanese players here, so the fans there are interested. I was 30 when I came to Liverpool – a big surprise. It shows all the footballers in Japan, keep dreaming, if you keep improving it can happen. The dream can come true. I hope there is respect for Japanese football now. I thought Mitoma might do well here, and he has. Liverpool fans in Japan will stay up and watch! They want us to achieve, and we will try to challenge for as many titles as possible."
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