Liverpool surprise £16m star has proven he deserves to start in Jurgen Klopp's side

The surprise summer signing has proven to be a key player for Liverpool.

Liverpool can certainly be happy with their summer transfer business as all of their summer signings have shown plenty of promise at different points and, right now, we're seeing why they decided to spend £16m on Wataru Endo.

The Japanese captain was definitely a left-field choice for the Reds given the superstar names they were chasing in the summer. However, Jorg Schmadtke being appointed as sporting director was always likely to bring about a signing like Endo, given his past of finding bargains in the Bundesliga.

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With Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and James Milner all departing this summer it meant that a new defensive midfield core was needed. And while there wasn't a direct Fabinho replacement brought in, Alexis Mac Allister has spent the majority of the season playing in the deepest role alongside Curtis Jones.

Given how successful Liverpool have been as a side so far this campaign - they are fighting on all fronts and are in a cup semi-final - it's safe to say it has worked, despite people's worries. The real issue is whether it could be maintained. Injuries occur and the overwhelming schedule of games has also played it's part, but Endo has stepped up at the right time, playing five games in 15 days as Liverpool maintained their strong winning form away at Burnley.

But the most interesting figures show that Liverpool have been a better side with Endo in the team, despite his slow start to life on Merseyside. Klopp admitted in September “He needs to get used to the things here, he is not 30 or whatever and wants to get some people out of the way to get into the team, but he is improving every day." And improved he has. In the seven games where Endo has started, Liverpool have won five, drawn two, conceded three goals and averaged 2.7 shots on target. In comparison, across the 12 games where he hasn't started, they've conceded more goals (12) more shots on target (4.2) and averaged less points per game.

Unfortunately for Liverpool, he is set to depart for the Asian games where he will captain Japan and the Reds will lose what is clearly a player in great form. Mac Allister should return in the new year to retake his role in the side but the fact that Endo has been un-droppable in recent weeks shows how he has fully settled into life on Merseyside.

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Klopp called him a 'long-term' project and with a contract until 2027, the Liverpool manager is expecting to have him around for a number of years. The fact he is 30 makes little difference as he is incredibly professional and has a brilliant injury record.

Where fans were initially underwhelmed by his signing, he's proving game by game that his brilliant reputation in Germany was warranted and £16m looks more and more like one of the bargains of the summer.

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