Liverpool midfielder Wataru Endo acknowledged the challenge of departing Merseyside for the Asian Cup just as he was hitting his stride in terms of performance.
The Japan captain Wataru Endo, signed for Liverpool for £16 million from Stuttgart, played in the last six matches, stepping in for the injured Alexis Mac Allister. This consistent run undoubtedly helped the 30-year-old acclimate to English football after a challenging start.
However, his last game for a month was the New Year’s Day victory over Newcastle, which extended Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League table to three points. Endo is now heading to Qatar to prepare for the tournament, commencing next Friday.
Unlike Mohamed Salah, who is currently away with Egypt at the African Nations Cup, Endo, upon his return, will have relinquished his spot to Mac Allister, the regular choice in the holding role throughout the season, and will have lost the momentum he had built up.
“Of course, I want to stay here but as a national team player it is important for me as I am captain. I am now focused on the national team and just doing my best,” said Endo.
“I want to have good results at the Asia Cup, but that’ll mean I have to stay longer in Qatar.
“But Macca has come back now, so I can just stay focused on the national team. I’m sure we (Liverpool) will play well, 100 per cent.
“I want to come back with the Asia Cup title. I’m confident Liverpool can do well in the absence of me and Mo.”
Wataru Endo acknowledges ‘toughest Christmas’ in his life at Liverpool
Endo’s delayed arrival in mid-August extended the period required for his assimilation into the team, leading to his primarily being limited to starts in the Europa League and Carabao Cup.
Nevertheless, Mac Allister’s injury and a demanding schedule in December left manager Jurgen Klopp with few alternatives but to field Endo every week, and this made a notable difference.
“It has been the toughest Christmas and New Year in my life but to play football is amazing so I’ve enjoyed it also,” Endo added.
“It’s a very tough schedule but I needed to keep playing. Playing the games is the most important way for me to improve.
“We have so many injured players. I was thinking, I am a very important player on the pitch so I needed to show why I came here.
“And I think the team played well and I also played better than before and we are now top of the table so I feel I did my job. I feel like I’ve got to grips more with playing in England.
“Confidence is a big thing also. The manager has shown a lot of faith in me. The other players know me better now as well, that’s also important for me to play better.”