Saturday Jul 21, 2018. 09:26
Guinea star Naby Keita has explained why signing for Liverpool and wearing the number eight jersey last donned by Steven Gerrard means so much to him.
The midfielder formally completed his move to the Reds from RB Leipzig on July, after the clubs had agreed to a transfer early last season.
Keita was given the number eight jersey, which had been vacant since the departure of club legend Steven Gerrard in 2015.
The Liverpool legend also made a surprise appearance at the club to present Keita with the number at their Melwood training ground.
It was a special moment for the 23-year-old, who explained that his father Sekou “loved” Liverpool and Keita himself would play football in the streets on Conakry wearing a replica jersey and dream of emulating Gerrard.
Keita said: “He (his father) has spoken to me loads since I signed for Liverpool about how much he loved them. As a kid, we used to play wearing a Liverpool shirt in the streets. He had that love of Liverpool then.
“Because I’m a midfielder and Gerrard was always the boss of the side, it couldn’t be anyone else other than Steven Gerrard. That’s who you’d be when you were playing, wanting to be like him.”
Keita says the nunber eight was always “special” for him, as it was the number his father, who played at “a decent amateur level” in Guinea, wore.
It was also that worn by ex-Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta, the player he describes as his “overall favourite”.
He added of the presentation by Gerrard, who has taken up the managerial reins at Rangers: “It was a big shock. Steven said: ‘Everyone’s going to be here for you, to help you develop.’
“I’m aware it’s a big number here and I’m very excited to wear it, but it’s also something I’m not going to put any extra pressure on myself with.”
Keita has also stressed his belief that “as a midfielder, you need to have that aggression as part of your game”.
When asked to describe himself as a player, he said: “I’m someone who has this real winning mentality. I have a huge desire to win. That’s why I’m aggressive in a positive sense on the field.”