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Wataru can help Liverpool's season End on a high
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Dan Fitch
Wataru Endo has established himself as a regular at Anfield
Wataru Endo has established himself as a regular at Anfield

Wataru Endo may prove to be the most significant Premier League signing made last summer. 

Liverpool only paid Stuttgart £16million for the midfielder, which already looks a steal.

The Japan international, 31, has established himself as a pivotal figure in Jurgen Klopp's new-look team, who are chasing three more trophies after lifting the Carabao Cup last month.

Ahead of Liverpool's Europa League last-16 second leg against Sparta Prague tonight, we examine Endo's impact at Anfield. 

City display

When Liverpool hosted Manchester City last Sunday, the pitch was filled with international superstars.

Yet it was the lesser-known Endo who stood out above them all and earned the Player of the Match award. 

The Reds' lynchpin won six out of seven duels, made four tackles and had a pass accuracy of 95%. 

His work rate helped Liverpool control the game, while his partnership with Alexis Mac Allister and progressive passing impressed opposition manager Pep Guardiola. 

The City boss said: "After the first half it was difficult because with Endo and Mac Allister they have extra passes and the quality to play. 

"Before, they were more direct, without losing how direct they can be in transitions."

World class

Endo also impressed his own manager, with Klopp hinting the industrious midfielder has reached a world class level.

The German tactician said: "What can you expect? That you sign a 30-year-old captain of Japan and he will be a standout player in the Premier League?

"That he would be a good player, we knew, but what he's making of that role, together with Macca, or with Dom [Szoboszlai] or with Harvey [Elliott].

"You never know that people can develop to world class but that's what happened."

Endo was certainly not Liverpool's first choice when they looked to sign a midfield enforcer last summer.

The Reds lost out to Chelsea in pursuits of Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia before turning their attention to the Bundesliga.

Endo had been a consistent force at Stuttgart but as an older player he looked more like a stop-gap — unlike the more youthful options previously targeted.

This assumption seemed to be endorsed by Klopp as he used the fresh recruit sparingly in his first few months at Anfield. 

It was not until December that Endo began to get regular starts in the Premier League but he is now having a major impact on the three-way title race. 

Mac Allister partnership

Wataru Endo was the Player of the Match against Manchester City
Wataru Endo was the Player of the Match against Manchester City

Endo's team-mate Dominik Szoboszlai faced him in the Bundesliga and previously provided insight into the dogged midfielder's qualities. 

The ex-RB Leipzig playmaker said: "I played against him when he was at Stuttgart. He's a player who is everywhere.

"It feels like you have got past him then you turn around and he's already there."

The defensive security Endo brings to Liverpool is certainly helping his colleagues.

Mac Allister was previously operating in the deeper role but has now been freed to operate further forward — the Argentine scoring three goals and notching four assists in his last six appearances across all competitions.

The midfield partnership has given Liverpool an extra edge, as it protects the back four and adds to their attacking threat. 

Endo may have been signed as an afterthought but he is now one of the first names in Klopp's XI.


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