Wataru Endo responds to Jurgen Klopp ‘joke’ about early Asian Cup elimination

Wataru Endo says he has no intention of leaving the Asian Cup early after Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp joked he wanted the Japan international and Africa Cup of Nations departee Mohamed Salah to be eliminated from their international tournaments at the group stage.

Endo, a surprise summer signing from Stuttgart, became a regular feature in the Reds’ starting XI after Alexis Mac Allister was sidelined by injury but left Merseyside after the 4-2 win over Newcastle United on New Year’s Day to join up with the Japan squad.

The Asian Cup runs until 10 February while AFCON finishes a day later.

Salah also left after the victory over the Magpies, leaving Klopp to joke in a press conference that he wanted both players to be knocked out earlier than expected.

Earlier this month, the German manager revealed: “I said, if I wish you good luck, it would be a lie!

“That’s not what I did, obviously. From a personal point of view, I would be happy if they went out of the group stage but it’s probably not possible, and then they can go and win it as well.

“Good luck, see you, come back healthy, that’s pretty much the words. Now we have to deal with it and will deal with it.

“Of course you see the recent games and think that looks a bit strange [without them]. I’m pretty positive that we will find a way but we have to show that on the pitch.”

Endo and Japan made a winning start to their Asian Cup campaign on Sunday with a 4-2 victory over Vietnam, with the midfielder grabbing an assist, and he responded to Klopp’s words of good luck before the game.

He said: “Of course the coach meant that as a joke but I do feel very honoured that he feels I need to be back at Liverpool. I’m here now, I’m the captain of the team and all I’m thinking about is bringing the trophy back to Liverpool.”

30-year-old Endo helped the Reds reach top spot in the Premier League before leaving for international duty, scoring his first goal in the competition in the dramatic 4-3 win over Fulham in early December. He had grabbed his debut strike for the club in the 5-1 Europa League thrashing of Toulouse in October.

Japan’s next game comes against Iraq on Friday, while Salah and Egypt kick off their AFCON campaign with a clash with Mozambique later on Sunday.

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