James Miller explores the significance of his near-namesake’s extra commitment to the Reds, and why the veteran remains a vital part of Jürgen Klopp’s squad.
James Milner, the ultimate professional, appears to be playing hardball with the thought of retirement, having put pen to paper on a one-year contract extension with Liverpool.
At the mature age of 36, two decades on from making his Premier League bow at Leeds United, this week has seen Milner celebrated for his professionalism and dedication to his craft. The Yorkshire-born midfielder has been rewarded for his services to football, after being made an MBE in the Queen’s Jubilee Year Honours List, and will remain a part of Jürgen Klopp’s dynasty.
At the end of the 2019/20 season when Marcelo Bielsa led his boyhood club back to the promised land of Premier League riches, speculation had begun as to whether a fairytale reunion would be in order to draw a close to a fabulous career. However, following a gruelling campaign in which Liverpool racked up a monstrous 63 games – every possible match across the season – the engine in the middle of the park showed his fitness and experience to be invaluable.
Despite continuous noise and discussion surrounding his ability, Milner showed real testimony to his lengthy career, having featured in both domestic cup final matches, against Chelsea, as the Reds secured the double. A major deciding factor in the Reds opting to extend a deal for the veteran was Klopp’s desire to maintain his major influence within the dressing room, coupled with Milner demonstrating his affection for the club by willingly accepting significantly reduced terms for his renewal.
Speaking with Liverpool’s official website he paid tribute to his manager, also expressing his excitement to be staying at the club. “I’m very pleased to be staying for another season,” Milner told Liverpoolfc.com. “I have never taken playing for this club for granted and I never will. An overriding feeling for me – and a vitally important one in the process – was the belief I can still contribute to the team. The gaffer was clear [about] what he thought and that was a big factor in me extending my contract.”
Milner originally signed for the club on a free transfer from Manchester City in 2015 and has since gone on to make 289 appearances for the club, scoring 26 times. His latest contract will cement Liverpool as the club he has served the longest throughout a remarkable career. However, according to the Liverpool Echo, there were two other Premier League outfits ready to pounce on the expiry of his previous contract, though staying on Merseyside arguably suited both parties.
Klopp will now retain the services of a player who knows his days as first choice are over, but who is still more than happy and, more importantly, capable of fulfilling roles both midfield and defence. Milner will also have the opportunity to continue working in an elite environment, learning from an array of top class coaches – if that is the direction he wishes to take once his playing days do actually come to an end.
Milner has collected six trophies during his time at Anfield – a complete set of major honours with the club – adding to the two league titles, FA Cup, League Cup and Community Shield won during his time with Manchester City. It is a trophy cabinet fitting of a bona fide Premier League icon – he truly is a role model in every aspect of the modern day footballer.
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