When Liverpool announced the signing of the two-time Premier League champion, James Milner, from Manchester City in the summer of 2015, the transfer was met with surprise from many of the Anfield faithful.
A peripheral figure in his last few seasons at the Manchester club, the deal was hardly the most inspiring, with Liverpool looking to rebuild following a disappointing 2014/15 season. However, since his arrival, Milner has brushed off his ‘boring’ tag to become a hugely influential figure in Jürgen Klopp’s swashbuckling Liverpool side.
In his debut season for the Reds, Milner took little time in earning the affection of the Liverpool fans. Seen as a useful, experienced squad player, he was not expected to be a constant fixture in the Liverpool XI. But that is exactly what he has become at Anfield.
The Merseysiders have signed a number of midfield reinforcements over the last two seasons, namely Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Fabinho, yet the Englishman has not lost his place in the side. Naturally, Milner has been subject to Klopp’s rotation policy, but the regard in which he is held by the German cannot be understated.
It was in his debut season that the 32-year-old managed to notch a hugely impressive 11 Premier League assists in just 28 appearances. In fact, his assist record in general has been exceptional since joining the club. He now sits joint seventh on the all-time Premier League assist chart, tied with David Beckham. The names above him in the list show just how impressive that feat is: Gerrard, Bergkamp, Lampard, Rooney, Fabregas and Giggs. His achievement of 80 Premier League assists is arguably bettered by the astonishing statistic that nobody has ever provided more assists in a single Champions League campaign than James Milner. The Yorkshireman’s record of nine assists last season has never been reached before, and was a hugely important contributing factor in Liverpool’s run to the final. Not so boring now.
Milner’s versatility, leadership and professional attitude have made him a favourite of the Kop. In the summer of 2016, he did not complain when he had to step up at left-back due to the shortcomings of Alberto Moreno, completing a whole season in that position, producing admirable performances and even bagging seven goals in the process – one short of the Premier League record for a defender.
Immediately made vice-captain when Brendan Rodgers signed him on a free back in 2015, Milner has often taken the captain’s armband due to club captain Jordan Henderson not being a regular starter over the last few seasons. With his passion and professionalism, he leads from the front on and off the pitch. His incessant pressing off the ball and his underrated dribbling and passing skills whilst in possession make him a manager’s dream in midfield.
A reliable penalty taker, Milner already has one goal and two assists in just four appearances this seasons, and the perfect example of his pressing and tackling ability directly resulted in Liverpool’s winning goal against Brighton. Despite the summer arrivals of Keita and Fabinho, Milner has made one of the three available midfield positions in Klopp’s side his own – and at the age of 32, still has a fair few seasons to go before he thinks about hanging up his boots.
Constantly topping the charts for distance covered in matches, Milner has the experience and temperament of a Premier League veteran who has played in the top flight in each of the last seventeen seasons (another staggering James Milner statistic), yet the body of a player still in his twenties. Since his arrival three years ago, Milner has endeared himself with the Anfield faithful, who appreciate his commitment to the club.
Not bad for someone who cost less than a chocolate bar…..