Liverpool have announced that new signing Naby Keita will be given the No. 8 shirt last worn by former captain Steven Gerrard.
Keita will officially become a Liverpool player on July 1 from Bundesliga side RB Leipzig.
Gerrard, who left his post as Liverpool’s under-18s manager to take charge of Rangers this summer, met Keita during the midfielder’s first visit to Melwood shortly after a transfer had been agreed in August.
“It was an incredible day for me,” Keita, 23, told Liverpool’s website. “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 [to] do as much as he did. That’s my motivation.”
Keita, a Guinea international, will report for Liverpool’s preseason training on July 2 and could feature in the club’s first friendly of the summer at Chester on July 7.
“I am really looking forward to it,” he said. “It obviously starts next week and I am looking forward to meeting my new teammates and getting started.”
Liverpool triggered a release clause in Keita’s RB Leipzig contract in August that only came into effect in at the end of the 2017-18 season, meaning the 23-year-old played the last campaign in the Bundesliga before his switch.
He, along with summer signing Fabinho, has strengthened Jurgen Klopp’s current midfield options, with Emre Can departing to Juventus on a free transfer.
“Firstly, I am somebody who plays in a defensive role and we need to start with that, but then I need to bring the ball forward and help the attack,” Keita said. “I’ve always got a desire to win — I believe I’m a winner.”
Glenn is ESPN FC’s Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.