Liverpool signing Wataru Endo for £16m is more typical of their lost transfer prowess than breaking records for Moises Caicedo. But it begs one question.
The last thing Liverpool should be after their disastrous summer transfer window is laid back, but at least they’re getting somewhere rolling into the season smoking Endo.
If Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia represented the gin and juice Chelsea have downed in front of Jurgen Klopp, it is safe to say that signing the captain of the Japan national team from Stuttgart will not entirely quench Liverpool’s midfield thirst. Their engine room requires significantly more than a tireless and durable 30-year-old, no matter how astute a capture it could be.
Liverpool went into this summer needing at least two midfielders. Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai was an excellent start on that front, if a little too eagerly proclaimed as evidence of the club’s reinvigorated transfer genius by those who have yet to update their opinions on the Reds’ market movements since Michael Edwards left and took the blueprint with him.
The loss of a pair of trusted lieutenants to Saudi Arabia changed everything. There is uncertainty as to who their new signing is actually intended to replace – is it Endo for Hendo or a 30-year-old taking the 29-year-old Fabinho’s spot? – but he was clearly not the first choice and ultimately cannot be the last through the door.
That former point is likely to be overplayed a little, if only because of how publicly Liverpool have tripped over their own shoelaces this summer. They have struck gold when pivoting from primary targets before; Klopp wanted Julian Brandt, Julian Draxler and Christian Pulisic ahead of Mo Salah, while Mario Gotze was preferred to Sadio Mane.
Much has been made in the past of how Liverpool identify a Plan A, a player who must be signed with no alternative or back-up, an Alisson or Virgil van Dijk. But they have adjusted brilliantly to the reality of rejection and setbacks in the past.
Endo, therefore, cannot be written off immediately simply because he is not Caicedo, Lavia or even Jude Bellingham – a player he beat for key passes in last season’s Bundesliga.
He brings experience, albeit neither in the Premier League nor European competition. He is a cost-efficient signing, which one would hope at his age. He offers versatility in defensive midfield or at centre-half, but should be supplemented by another addition in each position. He ranked fourth for duels won and seventh for distance covered in the Bundesliga last season, but neatly sums up the insular pitfalls of placing a short-term sporting director who has never worked outside of Germany in charge of a grand and long overdue midfield rebuild.
Could Liverpool not have activated two release clauses, scouted the Japan captain and brought in £50m from the Middle East without Jorg Schmadtke’s input?
It is at least a return to the sort of deal Liverpool used to be champions of: almost completed in the background with no semblance of rumour, speculation or leak threatening to undermine anything. After the sheer embarrassment of the Caicedo and Lavia calamities – and the cringe-inducing Never Fancied Him Anyway climbdown on Bellingham – that is a shred of comfort even as the fanbase is split between those rationalising a sensible £16m deal and the rest doom-scrolling the #FSGOUT echo chamber.
And it is undoubtedly more of a classic, traditional Liverpool move to sign Endo at that fee rather than breaking the British record on Caicedo, never mind one far less likely to stunt the development of Stefan Bajcetic.
But there is one glaring question left for Liverpool in the final days of the transfer window: where is the remaining £95m from the Caicedo bid? Their latest plan certainly isn’t the Endo the world but with so much drama in the LFC this summer, that still needs answering.
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