Liverpool's Naby Keita promises to provide fireworks in the No. 8 shirt
In Naby Keita, Liverpool feel they've finally found a worthy successor to Steven Gerrard. The £52 million new man is expected to provide the kind of explosive, box-to-box, match-winning midfield performances Liverpool have lacked since Gerrard was in his pomp. What's more, he'll be wearing the legendary skipper's No. 8 shirt while doing so.
Whereas in US sports the biggest stars will often see their number "retired" by their team in tribute, in football (or soccer, if you prefer) it is generally seen as an honour to be handed the shirt of a club icon.
The No. 7 is the most prestigious shirt at Liverpool, but 8 also has a rich tradition, as the iconic Roger Hunt wore the shirt throughout the 1960s. Still, for most supporters it is associated with Gerrard, regarded by many as either Liverpool's greatest or second-greatest player (behind Kenny Dalglish).
The No. 8 shirt has been vacant since Gerrard left in 2015, and it would have been easy for Keita to opt for another number. The fact he is confident enough in himself to take Gerrard's shirt is a good sign, as was Gerrard wanting to be the one to present him with it, passing the torch as it were.
This isn't James Milner taking the No. 7 shirt. Milner is a midfield player and therefore was not going to have to deal with comparisons to Kevin Keegan, Dalglish or Luis Suarez, all of whom were strikers. Keita will be playing in the same midfield role that Gerrard excelled in for so many years, and there is a genuine hope that he can have a similar impact. A direct comparison is therefore inevitable, but based on his first interview with the club Keita looks like he is embracing the challenge.
His arrival on Merseyside certainly was a long time coming, and that has only served to increase the excitement of supporters. The Reds wanted to bring him in a year ago but RB Leipzig were adamant that their prized asset was going nowhere. Liverpool would not be deterred, however, and acted decisively to strike a deal that ensured they got their man, even if it meant waiting a further 12 months before he arrived.
Looking back, that was an extremely smart piece of business, particularly given the way the transfer market exploded in the wake of the Neymar transfer soon after. The £52m fee looks like a bargain now in light of other recent deals.
So what should we expect from Keita in a Liverpool shirt? In a word: fireworks. Liverpool are the Premier League's great entertainers; brilliant, exciting, unpredictable and occasionally flawed -- adjectives that apply equally to Keita. He's a perfect fit for Jurgen Klopp's team.
The Guinea international is an explosive ball of energy who will be in the thick of absolutely everything. Keita can do it all. He has fine defensive qualities and could play in a holding role if required, but what a waste that would be. Like having Michelangelo paint your garden fence.
Keita's role in the side was made clear when Klopp brought in specialist holding player Fabinho. With skipper Jordan Henderson and Fabinho to call on, Klopp looks like he's just going to turn Keita loose and let him wreak havoc on unsuspecting opponents. Keita has energy to burn; he's quick, skillful, creative and direct. He can dribble, pass and shoot, and he frequently makes the spectacular look routine.
Yet despite his undoubted talent and pedigree, he's relatively unknown to fans of most English clubs due to playing for an unfashionable club. They'll find out how good he is soon enough. Liverpool's high-tempo style is tailor-made to bring the best out of Keita, while his game will help the Reds become even more potent in attack and give them some much needed attitude.
As well as Liverpool did last season, a common criticism was that they could at times be a little bit too nice. While not exactly being a soft touch, there was definitely room for a bit more nastiness in the team, especially in the middle of the park.
Henderson, Milner, Adam Lallana, Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are the kind of lads you'd be happy for your daughter to bring home. They're polite and inoffensive, but let's face it: there isn't one who you'd be scared to spill his pint.
This was never more evident than in the Champions League final against Real Madrid, when Sergio Ramos was allowed to take all manner of liberties without any kind of retribution. Not one Liverpool player stood up to Ramos or did anything to let him know they wouldn't be pushed around.
Admittedly, the game has changed and the days of a Graeme Souness or Tommy Smith taking violent retribution on behalf of a teammate are long gone. But it was still disappointing that no Liverpool player did anything to let Ramos know he doesn't have license to do whatever he likes.
The additions of the imposing Fabinho and the abrasive Keita can change that, but it needs to be a controlled aggression. Keita had some issues with red cards in Germany, particularly last season, but the Premier League is physical and should suit his combative all-action style. Just as it did Gerrard's.
Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.