James Milner rolling back the years at Liverpool
Background image: Polo Metz, CC BY 1.0
After some rough years in which European football abandoned Anfield, Liverpool is back in business. Playing some of the best football in the world while finally backing it up with silverware, manager Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be happier with his job. Management backed him all the way in his mission to return the side to the top but he has players to thank for delivering so much joy.
Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk are the obvious names. Add in keeper Alisson Becker along with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, two fullbacks who were arguably the best in the world and the list is still incomplete. James Milner's name belongs there with the rest.
Since switching the Etihad Stadium for Anfield in 2015, the Englishman has done anything and everything asked of him. Many wondered why Liverpool were taking in a 29-year-old who had given his best years to Manchester City. To make matters worse, the signing came at the same time the Sky Blues were pilfering burgeoning England winger Raheem Sterling. No one thought it anywhere near an equitable trade.
Aware he needed to prove he could still perform at the top level, the former England international rolled up his sleeves and went to work. Four years on, Milner has made his point and more. Throughout those four years, Milner's versatility and work rate stood out, yet Klopp's squad also benefits from his leadership and experience.
He became a Premier League champion under Manuel Pellegrini at City. Just when it seemed he was due for a move to one of the retirement leagues, Liverpool came calling. Milner had to accept a pay cut to join. Even the Merseysiders thought he was a risk.
Instead, the Leeds-born midfielder has done nothing but reward the faith the Kop did show in him. Under Jurgen Klopp, he has been deployed in different positions, on either wing, in central midfield and left-back. Whenever a player goes down or is having a bad day at the office and Klopp has failed to provide cover on the bench, Milner is on hand to do the job. It's amazing he hasn't done the gloves at any point in his Anfield tenure.
Upfront, he is invaluable. A penalty specialist, his goals from the spot contribute immensely to the team’s success. That culminated in winning the Champions League last season. When one considers the fact that it’s a trophy that has never graced the Etihad Stadium, his switch becomes the best decision he could have taken and for Raheem Sterling, perhaps the worst.
All that said, there remains one thing to prove. Liverpool still seek that elusive 19th top-flight title, the first in the Premier League era. He started the pre-season where he left off in 2018/19, netting a brace in the Reds’ first game. James Milner is intent on playing an important role for a fifth season. If he does, the Reds will have no choice but to extend his contract which expires at season's end.