All you need to know about Wataru Endo, Liverpool’s surprise new DM

Liverpool are reportedly set to sign Japan international Wataru Endo from Stuttgart. 

Jurgen Klopp’s Reds have endured a well-publicised search for a new defensive midfielder following the departure of Fabinho. Chelsea have beaten them to Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia but it sounds as though they’ve finally found an alternative option.

According to The Athletic’s football reporter David Ornstein, Liverpool are set to pay a €19million fee for the 30-year-old midfielder, who has arrived in Merseyside for a medical. We’ve compiled everything you need to know about the midfielder.

The story so far

Born in the Yokohama region of Japan in 1993, Endo developed his skills as a youngster with Shonan Bellmare and graduated from their academy to make over 100 first-team appearances for the club as they flitted between the top two divisions of Japanese football.

In 2015 he moved to Urawa Red Diamonds, one of the biggest clubs in Japan, with whom he helped win the Asian Champions League in 2017. Endo started at right-back in both legs of the final as they edged past Saudi Pro League side Al-Hilal with a 2-1 victory.

He subsequently moved to Europe to sign for Belgian club Sint-Truiden in 2018. A short while later he joined Stuttgart, originally on loan, and has been with them ever since helping them get promoted to the Bundesliga back in 2020.

Endo has been one of Stuttgart’s standout players as they’ve consolidated their spot in the German top flight over the last three seasons. He scored an unforgettable last-minute winner against Koln on the final day of the 2021-22 campaign, vital in keeping them in the Bundesliga, before they narrowly avoided the drop via a relegation play-off last term.

First capped by Japan back in 2015, he was part of the Samurai Blue’s squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia but never made it off the bench. In recent years, he’s nailed down his spot as their first-choice defensive midfielder and caught the eye at the World Cup in Qatar, looking particularly good as Japan pushed Croatia to penalties in the Round of 16.

Style of play

Nowadays Endo is almost exclusively a defensive midfielder for Stuttgart and Japan, but he’s actually notched up more appearances as a centre-back, having plied his trade there during his early years back in Japan. It’s only since he moved to Europe five years ago that he’s adapted his game to the No.6 role.

Having slotted in at the base of a diamond at Stuttgart, their captain’s energy and engine makes him well-suited to the high-intensity style predominantly played in the Bundesliga – and is surely the key factor behind Jurgen Klopp reportedly being so keen.

A positionally astute midfielder that’s earned praise for his reading of the game, Endo has a reputation as an adept ball-winner – precisely the type of player that Liverpool were lacking in their opening day 1-1 draw at Chelsea.

Opta note that among all Bundesliga midfielders since his competition debut back in September 2020, Endo ranks top for the most duels and minutes played, second for possession won and second for tackles.

According to FBref, Endo is ranked in the top 10th percentile compared to positional peers for clearances and aerial duels won over the last 365 days. He also ranks towards the top end for non-penalty xG, xAG (expected assists) and shots. Similar players – based entirely on their statistical profile – include Casemiro, Gavi, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Adrien Rabiot.

What’s been said

“I love Wataru, to be honest,” Bundesliga stalwart Mario Gomez recently told reporters (via Sky Sports).

“When I came into the dressing room, I was always telling the coach to put me in the same team as Wataru because then we will never lose. This is how it started. I was just pushing him a lot.

“At a certain point, the coach used him. And then it is not me, it is about the player, because he played fantastic. That is why he is playing not because I told the coach that he is great. It is because he is a really great player. Now, he is the captain of his team.”

“There was no uncertainty over what Endo could bring to the club,” former Stuttgart sporting director Sven Mislentat told the Bundesliga’s official website.

“As a player and as a person, he’s simply incredibly valuable.”

“It’s important for me that our captain can take everyone with him, that he embodies the values we stand for and is an example to follow,” explained Pellegrino Matarazzo.

“I have chosen Wataru Endo because he’s also someone who leaves room for other players to take responsibility.”

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