Wataru Endō became just the second Japanese player to sign for Liverpool when he joined the club last summer. The first was of course Takumi Minamino, now close to four years ago.

Japanese football has grown tremendously in the last few decades. Just over 30 years ago, Japan did not even have a professional football league until the J.League was established in 1992. Over the subsequent years, the country invested a lot into infrastructure and the sport itself to prepare for the 2002 World Cup, which was co-hosted with South Korea.

The tournament was a resounding success and it proved formative to many players, including the likes of Minamino and Endō, who inspired by the achievements of Japan, have gone on to create successful careers for themselves.

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But the real growth of Japanese football has only just begun. At the most recent World Cup last year, Japan beat both Germany and Spain to top its group, and then held its own against Bronze medalist Croatia before crashing out on penalties.

With more and more Japanese stars plying their trade in Europe, the country's player pool is one of the strongest not only on the continent of Asia, but among the top 20 to 30 national teams in world football.

Some of the best recent players in the top five European leagues have been the likes of Kaoru Mitoma and Endō, while Takefusa Kubo is lighting up La Liga. And it is the latter who, in the absence of Mitoma, played a key role in Japan's success during the international break.

Liverpool transfer Takefusa Kubo
Takefusa Kubo could be an ideal transfer target for Liverpool.

Captained by Endō, Japan secured a comfortable 5-0 victory over Syria in World Cup qualifying with Kubo getting a goal and an assist. His goal was particularly impressive, with the young winger cutting in from the right and unleashing a powerful left-footed shot into the corner of the net from outside the box.

It was the kind of goal Liverpool fans have seen plenty of times performed by Jürgen Klopp's talisman Mohamed Salah. Endō himself is probably well accustomed to seeing similar strikes at the AXA Training Centre. But this time around it was his international teammate who pulled off the trick, and it should alert Liverpool.

There are few players who are as similar to Salah in terms of playing style as Kubo, and who would be as suited to Klopp’s gegenpressing style as the Japanese international. Liverpool will hope Salah stays at Anfield for a long time, even amid interest from Saudi Arabia, but when the time comes, right now one of the best candidates to succeed the Egyptian's throne is Kubo, and it would be a smart move to make him the third Japanese player to play for the club in the future.