On and off the pitch, Liverpool's James Milner has been a massive influence on his teammates since he broke through as a 16-year-old at Leeds United in 2002.
Often lauded for his incredible versatility and work ethic, Milner is admired around the football world as a model professional who always delivers the goods, especially on the grandest occasions. His evolution from wide attacker at Leeds United (where he made his Premier League debut aged 16 years & 309 days) to a conventional central midfielder/old-school winger at Newcastle and then at Aston Villa under Martin O'Neill alerted Man City, who forked out £26m for his coveted services in 2010. By the time Milner was winning titles at the Etihad, he was filling in pretty much everywhere with the Englishman becoming a vital cog in Roberto Mancini & Manuel Pellegrini's winning Man City machines between 2012 and 2014.
For all of his versatility, Milner also possesses great technical ability which goes somewhat unnoticed because of all his other footballing gifts and positive personality traits. It's no surprise that the 34-year-old is such a popular figure with his teammates and why managers down the years have continually picked him in the big games.
🔴 James Milner at Liverpool
In June 2015, Milner arrived at Anfield on a free transfer and was designated as the club's vice-captain just two months later. His first full season at the club culminated in Europa League final heartbreak at the hands of Sevilla in 2016, but Liverpool's appearance in the 2018 Champions League final was a clear sign of their sturdy progress under Jürgen Klopp. Milner started and played 83 minutes of the 4-1 defeat against Real Madrid in Kyiv, a contest punctuated by a scuffle between Sergio Ramos & Mo Salah that deprived Liverpool of their star attacker for the majority of the showpiece occasion owing to a shoulder injury. Gareth Bale stole the show with a spectacular overhead kick on a night to forget for Liverpool, Loris Karius and the rest of Milner's Melwood mates.
Klopp's troops channelled the disappointment of 2018 and made up for it in the best way possible; becoming champions of Europe for a sixth time, beating Premier League rivals Tottenham in Madrid. Milner was a substitute this time around, introduced by Klopp just past the hour mark to take the sting out of the game and help the Reds over the line in a convincing 2-0 win which was rarely ever in doubt. Milner's big-game experience once again paid huge dividends for his manager and teammates; calm heads are priceless in finals and you'll struggle to find a more serene star than James Milner.
Losing out on the Premier League title in 2019 on the final day of the campaign would have hurt, but the club's sixth European Cup tempered the pain and now in 2020, their first Premier League win and first top-flight English title in 30 years make this a truly Golden Era for supporters of Liverpool Football Club.
For the record, during Liverpool's 2019-20 title-winning campaign, Milner has made 11 starts and eight substitute appearances to date. Both of his goals have come in wins over Leicester; first a nerveless penalty in October in the 95th minute to seal a crucial 2-1 win (he assisted Sadio Mané's opener), and then another spot-kick on Boxing Day in a 4-0 thrashing of the Foxes at the King Power. That proved to be one of the outstanding team displays of the season.
🏆 Honours & accolades
- 📊 Fifth on the all-time Premier League appearances charts (535).
- 🎯 Eighth on the all-time Premier League assists charts (84).
- 🦁 Three-time Premier League winner (2012, 2014, 2020).
- 🏆 UEFA Champions League winner in 2019.
- 🇪🇺 UEFA Super Cup & FIFA Club World Cup winner in 2019.
- 🏴 FA Cup winner in 2011.
- 🎖 Football League Cup winner in 2014.
- 🎖 UEFA Intertoto Cup winner in 2006.
Milner is pretty good value on social media too. Check out his best isolation XI, packed with dad jokes from start to finish.
James Milner keeping us all entertained with his isolation XI. 😂pic.twitter.com/p4tTvuAcm1— DaveOCKOP (@DaveOCKOP) March 24, 2020
The duration of Milner’s senior playing career far exceeds the amount of time he had been on the planet when he first appeared in the white of Leeds United some 18 years ago. That speaks to an almost extinct level of longevity in the modern game. With cross-country and athletics pedigree very much a part of his history as a youngster, Milner has defied the odds and produced the best moments of his career on the wrong side of 30.
Perhaps the true value of such players is only appreciated once they’ve called time on their careers, but ask Jürgen Klopp who he wants standing over a clutch penalty kick in a decisive moment and there will only be one answer.
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