While the attention at Liverpool currently surrounds a star-studded starting eleven, there has been plenty to admire about the strength in depth. One player in particular who rarely fails when called upon is James Milner.
Now approaching the latter stages of his career, his departure is more a case of when rather than if. It may not be imminent, but in the near future Jürgen Klopp will be tasked with the challenge of replacing one of the most reliable athletes in sport.
When many think of Milner, they envisage a figure known for his tremendous work ethic and dedication, with reference rarely made to his actual talent. Considering the is a player who has won every domestic trophy on offer in England and even more recently conquered Europe, it could be argued he has been done a disservice.
Milner initially arrived on the scene due to his impressive performances for Aston Villa, before moving on to the revolution at Manchester City where he would dominate England. During his time in Manchester he won the Premier League twice, the FA Cup, League Cup and even the Community Shield.
In 2015, Liverpool managed to secure the services of the experienced midfielder on a free transfer, which has proven to be a sensational piece of business for the Reds.
It could be argued that at Manchester City he was surrounded by stars and destined to win big honours — a fair point. But the same cannot be said about his time on Merseyside, which has to date seen him win the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup.
At the time when Milner arrived at Anfield, the club were at the beginning of a project which has seen wholesale changes. Despite such upheaval, the Englishman amongst few others has survived.Embed from Getty Images
Not only has he stuck around, he has played a major role in the Reds’ development under Klopp’s management. A player who knows no bounds, Milner has played practically all over the park and rightfully captains the club in the absence of regular skipper Jordan Henderson. His leadership skills are beyond reproach.
Off the ball he has been immaculate and led by example, through good and bad times, but also on the ball he has been superb. He may not be the flashiest player to watch, but he gets the job done with minimum fuss.
Of course, attention will be on the younger players, those currently in their prime, but let’s not forget the efforts that Milner has gone to. Without the Yorkshireman’s contributions, providing nine assists, the likelihood is the Reds may not have been able to enjoy a breathtaking run to the 2017/18 Champions League final, a tournament that proved the catalyst for further success.
Aged 34, the joy of having such a robust, experienced player within the Liverpool ranks is drawing to a close, a statement that will bring sadness to many, from the staff, to the players, to the fans.
Milner is a real cult-hero on Merseyside and replacing a footballer and a man like him is an impossible job. Klopp has his work cut out.
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