Random Signing for the Reds
Liverpool love a surprise signing that comes from nowhere, but the arrival of Wataru Endo felt out of left field even by their standards.
During a summer in which it was clear that Jurgen Klopp was gutting and rebuilding his midfield, the Japanese arrived from nowhere in August, with not even social media’s biggest blaggers predicting it.
While the signings of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai were genuinely exciting, Endo coming in felt more of a head-scratcher, with many not exactly enamoured with the deal.
This was a 30-year-old whose best team in his career had been VfB Stuttgart, making him a solid Bundesliga player – one coming into the autumn of his career.
Fast forward four months, however, and Endo finds himself becoming increasingly popular by the week, having produced an excellent December that has helped Liverpool sit top of the Premier League.
The midfielder has dealt brilliantly with the pressure of having to come in for the injured Mac Allister in the No.6 role at one of the busiest times of the season, putting together a string of effective performances.
There hasn’t been anything spectacular about Endo, barring a superb late equaliser in the eventual 4-3 win at home to Fulham, but he has used his experience, defensive solidity and character to become a key figure.
Tough Start to His Career
He made a slow start to life at Liverpool, struggling to deal with the pace of the Premier League – that has happened to so many players, in fairness, including signings who have become legends – but with each passing outing, the more at home he looks.
Endo has started Liverpool’s last seven matches across a 20-day period, showcasing his fitness levels and durability, and his appearance tally for the season already stands at 23, which few may have predicted back in August.
Nothing about the Japan international is remotely spectacular, but he is an intelligent footballer who uses the ball with care, bites into tackles and possesses an edge to his character that Klopp no doubt saw in him before he signed him.
The fact that he is a strong contender to be named the Reds’ Player of the Month for December speaks volumes about how well he has done.
A popular figure among the fanbase because of his effort levels, and perhaps because he is someone getting the very best out of his ability, Endo is now heading into cult hero status, as has been the case with the likes of Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri and even Nat Phillips in the recent past.
Quite what it is that makes a cult hero is up for debate, and subjective, but the individuals in question are often understated, relatable and praised far less than the players around them.
In that respect, Endo ticks the boxes.
When everyone is fit, he shouldn’t be in Liverpool’s strongest starting lineup, but what he has shown over the past month is what a key squad player he is going to be between now and the end of the season.
There will be times when his nous will be required from the substitutes’ bench, helping the Reds manage games, and with two goals to his name already, who’s to say there won’t be another big contribution at some point?
From being arguably one of the more underwhelming signings of the Klopp era, Endo is growing into an Anfield favourite – one whose December impact should never be forgotten if Liverpool end the season as Premier League champions.