Kolo Touré is a delightful man. The Ivorian is a treasure trove of smiles, laughs, hugs, meme-able facial expressions and delightful antics. He is well-known for his enthusiasm and the joy he finds in taking young players coming into the first team under his wing. It would be easy to look at the oddball uncle-ness of the man and write him off as just an old codger making up numbers and smiling along the way, but to do so would be doing him a disservice. This season, the 15-year veteran of the Ivorian national team has quietly stacked up 25 appearances, including terrific performances in the all-important Europa League semifinals, as the Reds found themselves missing starting centre-back Mamadou Sakho due to the latter's doping-related ban.
Along the way, Touré seems to have adapted to the fact that he is well past his athletic prime, learning to rely on experience rather than the fleet-footedness of his 20s to deny attackers, at the same time limiting his passing game to the bare essentials; keep it short and simple and feed the better playmakers, or get it away if under pressure. This all adds up to an unspectacular, but undeniably dependable back-up defender who can get the job done when called upon, and who isn't making a fuss when left out of the starting XI. Exactly what you'd want in a veteran back-up. Kolo is happy to play the role:
"Of course, the competition is really tough. We have fantastic defenders. But for me, like I always say, I just always believe.
"I always give 100 per cent, working hard everyday. I know in a season there are injuries and anything can happen. The most important [thing] is that you have to get ready.
"As a professional player, for me it's very important that I keep my shape and work hard and whenever the manager needs me, I just try to step out and do the best for the team and the best for the club - that's most important for me. (...)
"When you've been for so long in the football game, of course you have a little bit of experience. But experience is not everything.
"I think in this team we have some really talented young players and they are really, really good players as well. You have a player like Philippe Coutinho who is a top player playing for Brazil, been at the club for a long time. James Milner [too].
"I just try to bring what I can to the team, but we are really lucky that we have [a] few really experienced players in the team definitely."
As Liverpool head into their first summer under Jürgen Klopp, they have the second youngest squad in the Premier League. There is little Champion's League and title winning experience. With Martin Skrtel - the second oldest and most experienced player in the squad - likely to depart the club in the upcoming transfer window, and Sakho's immediate future uncertain, Kolo, Kolo Kolo must currently be considered a starter at his position. Joël Matip's arrival is likely to change that, and young Joe Gomez is lurking in the depths, but heading into a season that - if all goes to plan on Wednesday - will see the club play 50-60 matches, with anything less than five centre-backs is likely to backfire.
Keeping the veteran - and with 64 Champion's league appearances, nearly 500 senior club games and over a 100 international games behind him, Kolo is just that - around to provide cover for and leadership to the young side, all at a reasonable cost, is the smart play. Hopefully Klopp agrees.