We may have known little of him at the start of the week, but Wataru Endo is set to leave a big hole behind as far as Stuttgart are concerned.
The Reds have spent an entire summer trying to seal a defensive midfield signing, with the Japanese captain looking set to become the third arrival of the window.
It is a move which came as a surprise to many, as the 30-year-old remains a relatively unknown quantity in England.
But Endo is clearly held in high regard at the club he joined from Sint-Truidense in 2020, highlighted by the disappointment expressed by the manager he will leave behind.
Stuttgart boss Sebastian Hoeness has admitted he is “not thrilled” by the prospect of losing his captain but conceded that it is a “dream” move for the midfielder.
“From a sporting point of view, of course, I’m not thrilled. Wataru is an important player both athletically and personally. He’s our captain.
“He has made 99 of 102 possible Bundesliga games. He was always there in important moments.”
Those sentiments were echoed by the midfielder’s former manager Pellegrino Matarazzo, the man who handed the Stuttgart captaincy to Endo.
Matarazzo labelled his skipper a “soldier” back in October 2020, saying: “Of course, Wataru is important for our game. He is a link player and like a soldier who closes the holes.”
Endo played against Liverpool in pre-season just two months prior to those comments, when the Reds ran out comfortable 3-0 winners in Austria.
Later, in 2021, Stuttgart’s former sporting director Sven Mislintat described Endo as “incredibly valuable” and talked up the versatility of which Liverpool could become the beneficiaries.
“As a player and as a person, he’s simply incredibly valuable,” said Mislintat.
“He’s one of these anchors, a focal point in our system. Whether he plays as a centre-back or as a defensive midfielder, it’s good that he’s there and performs.”
The Japanese international went on to score one of the most crucial goals in Stuttgart’s history with an injury-time winner to secure the club’s Bundesliga safety back in 2021/22.
The German side beat FC Koln 2-1 to narrowly avoid relegation on the final day of the season as Endo made himself a hero among the Stuttgart faithful.
Liverpool look close to finally securing a No. 6 signing after kicking off their 2023/24 campaign without a specialist defensive midfielder in the squad for the trip to Chelsea.
The Reds may yet add further reinforcements to complement the midfielder’s arrival, with Cheick Doucoure, Florentino Luis and Andre among the reported names to be linked.
Endo will be required to hit the ground running as one of the more experienced heads in the middle of the park as Jurgen Klopp‘s side look to battle for silverware on all fronts.