Liverpool fans have waited nearly a year, but it won’t be long until they finally see Naby Keita grace the Anfield turf.
After stop-start talks for much of 2017, a deal was agreed last August between the Reds and Red Bull Leipzig for the Guinean midfielder, a fee of around £53 million being paid to the German side.
Despite a move being agreed for July 1, 2018, Jurgen Klopp and his recruitment team explored the idea of bringing Keita to Merseyside six months ago in the January transfer window, but Leipzig refused to budge.
What Liverpool are getting from the 23-year-old is a powerful box-to-box midfielder with an eye for goal, a much different player than the recently-departed Coutinho, but he could arguably play a pivotal role in Klopp’s high-energy pressing system.
Keita has high expectations arriving at Anfield, and trophies are on his mind as he counts down the days until his contract officially starts.
“When you see how they performed last season it makes me want to do the same and to be a part of this team,” said the Guinea international.
“I would like to be able to achieve a similar kind of season with them next season – but even better.
“I also spoke with the coach, who told me about the project for the team and that motivated me to be here.”
And on the day Keita arrived at Liverpool’s Melwood training complex to sign the deal last summer, club legend Steven Gerrard – then managing the under-18’s, personally handed him the iconic number eight shirt that he wore for 11 years.
Speaking of the moment, Keita said, per Liverpool’s official website; “It was an incredible day for me. He gave me the No.8 jersey. When it happened, it was a surprise and I didn’t expect it.
“When he came in, I looked and him and said, ‘wow’ because he is a legend. He is somebody who always showed respect, who gave his all on the pitch, somebody who is loved here.
“If somebody like that gives you his shirt number, it’s not to play around with, it is to try and do as much as he did – that’s my motivation.”
"It was an incredible day for me." 🔴
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) June 27, 2018
Classy by new Rangers boss Gerrard, who must think a lot of Keita to pass the mantle of wearing the number that he sported for so long and won many trophies with.
Buzzing Liverpool fans are already counting down the days until they get to see their new number eight live for the first time against West Ham on August 11 – and who can blame them.