Football News

Jurgen Klopp praises “exceptional” Wataru Endo after Liverpool’s record-extending EFL Cup win

By Harry Edwards

Published: 14:21, 26 February 2024

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has hailed the performance of Japanese midfielder Wataru Endo after the Reds won the EFL Cup.

With Klopp leaving Liverpool in the summer, a lot of focus has been put on the Reds potentially winning four trophies to see him off. Still in the FA Cup and Europa League, Liverpool lead the Premier League table after 26 games and got their first trophy of the season at the weekend.

The Reds beat Chelsea 1-0 after extra-time in the EFL Cup final, the 10th time Liverpool have won the competition — becoming the first club to reach double figures. In the build up to the game, much was made about Liverpool’s injury problems, with the Reds missing a number of key players.


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Alisson, Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Darwin Nunez were just some of the names missing for Liverpool as they made the trip down to Wembley. As a result, Liverpool had a much weakened bench to take on Chelsea, with five teenagers including a 16-year-old. Four of their six subs used were also aged 21 or under, with Joe Gomez (26) and Kostas Tsimikas (27) to only exceptions.

Tsimikas got the assist for Virgil van Dijk’s winner, scored in the 118th minute, but the result was all about Liverpool’s youngsters. “It’s Klopp’s kids against the billion pound bottle jobs,” quipped Gary Neville on commentary.

Klopp himself produced a nod to Alan Hansen and his now infamous take on Manchester United’s Class of 92, telling reporters: “What we see today is so exceptional.

“We might never see it again, these things don’t happen in football. Apparently, you don’t win trophies with kids, I didn’t know that.”

“It is easily the most special trophy I’ve ever won. It’s absolutely exceptional. I wish I could feel pride more often, tonight that’s the overwhelming feeling – nothing to do with maybe my last game at Wembley. It was how everyone contributed.

“Seeing the faces of these kids. Nobody will ever forget this story – it’s so difficult. This tonight, if you find the same story with academy players coming on against a top side and still winning it, wow.”

However, Klopp did also reserve special praise for midfielder Endo. The Japanese midfielder joined Liverpool last summer for £16m, with little fanfare, as he was also joined at the club by bigger-money moves for Ryan Gravenberch, Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai.

Szoboszlai is the most-used of the midfielders, with Endo coming in third, starting 11 of his 18 Premier League games and amassing just under 1,000 minutes. But Endo has become a big part of Liverpool’s midfielder since December, only missing a handful of games due to the Asian Cup.

He started at the base of Liverpool’s midfield in the EFL Cup final at the weekend, playing the full 120 minutes and largely keeping the Chelsea midfield under control. Although he was the second-oldest player in Liverpool’s starting XI, end the second-oldest of any starter for either team, after only Van Dijk, Klopp believes Endo doesn’t play to his age.

Endo had 89 touches of the ball in total, completing 62 of his 68 passes, won 12 duels, made six tackles and three clearances, as well as creating one chance.

“I’m pretty sure in three [or] four years Wataru will sign another long-term contract at Liverpool just because he might be 30 or 31 on his passport but he’s not,” Klopp told reporters.

“He’s a machine. He is footballing-wise exceptional. His defensive brain is outstanding. He gives us a lot of freedom for a lot of things. Yeah, top development. Very helpful, very helpful.”

Endo made a bit of history at Wembley, becoming the first Japanese player to start and win an EFL Cup final this century. He is also just the third Asian player to do so, with Park Ji-sung and Ki Sung-yueng flying the flag for South Korea.

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