Why Wataru Endo is now Liverpool's MVP in their quadruple pursuit


The midfield battle in the Carabao Cup final was always going to be decisive. It was an area of the pitch that was littered with talent.  


Chelsea could boast a £200m double-pivot made up of World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez and one-time Liverpool transfer target Moises Caicedo while the Reds named a midfield three of Ryan Gravenberch - a former Ajax wonderkid - Alexis Mac Allister - a World Cup winner with Argentina - and ex-VfB Stuttgart captain Wataru Endo.  


Few would’ve thought the latter would be the most dominant midfielder on display, but he was.  


He’s turned out to be a key signing for Liverpool.  


The Reds caught a lot of people off guard with the signing of Endo after missing out on Caciedo and Romeo Lavia. At the time, many viewed it as a panic buy having sold their two defensive midfielders while failing to land their top targets to replace Jordan Henderson and Fabinho.  


Endo wasn’t your stereotypical Liverpool signing. The Japan skipper, when he arrived on Merseyside, was 30. He had no Premier League experience, no experience playing European football and there was no real potential for him to improve.  


Yet Jurgen Klopp personally pushed for the signing. He revealed as much after Endo was unveiled as a Liverpool player, saying: "You know it is not traditionally like that [signing a player of Endo’s age]. The last player in that age group was James Milner. It is always a discussion we have. The owners really want 200 games at 20 years old. That is pretty difficult.  


"I didn’t need any kind of convincing. I know that the best time for a football player is from 27 to 33 in a normal career. It depends on injuries, of course. That is why I did not need to change anything and he was on my list from the beginning." 


Still, eyebrows were raised.   


Yet here we are heading into March. Endo has proven himself to be a pivotal cog for Liverpool and is arguably the best signing of the summer. Not just for the Reds but for any team in the Premier League.  


Why Wataru Endo is now Liverpool's MVP in their quadruple pursuit


He’s made 15 starts for the Reds across domestic competitions and Liverpool are unbeaten, winning 13 and racking up a goal difference of +27. The £16m summer signing missed out on the Player of the Match award in the Carabao Cup final - the accolade went to match-winner Virgil Van Dijk and some felt as though it should’ve been given to Caoimhin Kelleher for his exploits between the sticks. Endo was just as important as them though. Perhaps even more so.  


The Liverpool No.3 attempted 68 passes at Wembley and he found a teammate 91% of the time, also playing one key pass. He attempted eight tackles - the most of any player in red - and was successful on six occasions, giving him a success rate of 75%.  


He finished the match alongside James McConnell and Bobby Clark and was the only starting midfielder to last the full 120 minutes. Ryan Gravenberch was substituted off in the first half after a horrendous Moises Caicedo tackle while Mac Allister ran himself into the ground before being replaced.  


With Liverpool going for the win, Klopp entrusted Endo with guiding the two highly-rated youngsters through what was a delicate stage of proceedings. And he did his job exceptionally well.  


After the match, Klopp singled Endo out for special praise, saying: "We were lucky, we bring him in and I am pretty sure in three or four years Wataru will sign another long-term contract at Liverpool. He might be 30 or 31 in the passport, but he is not, he is a machine." 


His signing has proven to be a masterstroke by Klopp. He’s given this Liverpool midfield balance, he’s formed a good understanding with Mac Allister and he’s added some valuable experience to the middle third.  


Endo outperformed two £100m midfielders on Sunday and it felt as though he didn’t even break a sweat. There’s an argument to be made that he’s perhaps Klopp’s best Liverpool signing.  


Who needs Enzo or Caicedo when you have Endo?

Why Wataru Endo is now Liverpool's MVP in their quadruple pursuit