Wataru Endo has arrived at Anfield, confirmed as one of the shock deals of the summer, but Jurgen Klopp believes he can have a similar impact at Liverpool to ‘legend’ James Milner.
After missing out on big-money moves for Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia, both to Chelsea, the Reds turned to an unlikely candidate to fill the boots of Fabinho, who has moved to Saudi Arabia.
The 30-year-old captain of Japan has been snapped up for £16.2m from Stuttgart and although it might not be what the Liverpool fans had hoped for at the start of the transfer window, Klopp has talked up his new man.
‘He is a late bloomer in his career and he was definitely underestimated for a long time. It is clear he has improved every year since he was on the proper football screen,’ Klopp told a press conference on Friday.
‘There’s no chance that anybody could [think he is 30], when you see him, you think, “Is he allowed to drive a car?”. On the pitch, he turns into a real monster.
‘One of the biggest LFC legends of my time was James Milner, he arrived here when he was 29. I can tell you without James Milner, we wouldn’t have enjoyed success in recent years.
‘Wataru can have a similar impact. The last week was obviously a tricky one. But when you have a problem you can stick to the problem or find a solution, I’m more than happy to have the solution.’
Milner arrived at Liverpool when he was 29 but went on to spend eight seasons with the club, making 332 appearances and winning both the Premier League and Champions League among a string of other trophies.
Endo has earned a lot of respect for his performances in the Bundesliga, chiefly in holding midfield, but also capable of playing at centre-back.
His leadership abilities are illustrated by wearing the armband for Stuttgart and Japan, with Klopp praising his commitment to the cause.
‘I know how football fans are, they would prefer to bring in a player who is £110m. But wait: he has something that Liverpool supporters will love, definitely,’ said Klopp.
‘He is already used to red a little bit [at Stuttgart], so that’s good, and when he puts that shirt on he will throw everything on the pitch and the people will love that, I know that. We had this with James Milner a little bit. Obviously a slightly different profile but could you respect James Milner more for playing 15 minutes at the end and just closing a game down?
‘I am really happy these kind of stories are still possible in this crazy world of football. It just feels right.”