Wataru Endo, a midfielder for Liverpool, acknowledged that it was challenging to leave Merseyside for the Asian Cup right when he was beginning to truly settle into his groove.
After a challenging start to his English football career, the 30-year-old Japan captain, a £16 million acquisition from Stuttgart, clearly benefited from his consistent rhythm as he started the last six games in lieu of the injured Alexis Mac Allister.
But Endo’s match on New Year’s Day, which increased Liverpool’s advantage over Newcastle to three points at the top of the Premier League standings, was his last for a month as he flew to Qatar to start getting ready for the tournament, which gets underway on Friday.
When Endo returns, Mac Allister, who has been starting in the holding post all season, will have taken his spot and the momentum he built up, unlike Mohamed Salah, who is currently travelling with Egypt for the African Nations Cup.
“I want to stay here, of course, but being the captain is crucial to me as a member of the national team. I’m simply trying my hardest and concentrating on the national team right now,” Endo stated.
“I want to do well at the Asia Cup, but that will require me to be in Qatar for a longer period of time.
However, Macca has returned, so all I have to do is keep my attention on the national team. We (Liverpool) will play well, no doubt about it.
“I want to win the Asia Cup and return with the trophy. Liverpool can succeed without me and Mo, I’m sure of it.”
Due to his delayed arrival in mid-August, Endo’s integration into the team took longer than expected. Consequently, he was primarily limited to starting in the Carabao Cup and Europa League.
Nevertheless, manager Jurgen Klopp was forced to play Mac Allister every week due to his injuries and a demanding workload in December, and it had a big impact.
Although it’s been the hardest Christmas and New Year’s I’ve ever experienced, I’ve still had fun because I play football, Endo continued.
“Despite the extremely demanding schedule, I had to continue playing. Taking part in the games is the primary means by which I can further develop.
“So many of our players are hurt. I reasoned that I should demonstrate my importance on the pitch by stating why I had come.
“We are presently at the top of the table, so I feel like I did my job. I think the team performed well, and I played better than I did before. I think I’ve learned more about playing in England.
“Having confidence is also important. I have a lot of faith from the manager. It’s crucial for me to perform better that the other players are more familiar with me now.
James Balagizi, 20, has been called up by Liverpool after his loan term at Wigan, where he played in just seven games, three of which were in League One.