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James Milner: One of the best bargains of the Premier League era



Photo: Getty Images

Few men are more crucial to their teams than James Milner at Liverpool. Understated he may be, it is rare that Milner’s name is the one in the headlines, but the Liverpool number seven has become one of the first names on Jurgen Klopp’s team-sheets.

Last season, he was deployed as a makeshift left-back, filling in well for a full campaign, and this year back in midfield he has showed what he’s capable of, most notably leading the assist rankings in the Champions League with nine (more than Neymar and Kevin De Bruyne combined on four apiece).

Considering that Milner arrived at Anfield on a free transfer from Manchester City in 2015, there can be no argument that in a world where players of his quality and experience are sold for closer to £50 million, he has been one of the best bargains of the Premier League era.

(Photo credit should read ISABELLA BONOTTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Milner’s strongest attribute has been his consistency, regularly pulling his team along as they go in fits and bursts of unstoppable attacking play followed by defensive shambles. Not only does he consistently notch from the penalty spot, but his form is reliable.

An experienced head in a young team, Milner has excelled when playing at the very highest level where few of his team-mates had ever even imagined reaching at the start of the campaign. Whilst his age may mean that he does not offer the re-sale value of some younger bargains, his experience does add huge value to this Liverpool team.

Having retired from international duty, which some may say came too soon, Milner still has plenty left to offer. The arrival of Naby Keita in the summer will pose another threat to his position, but having missed only 15 games over the past two seasons, he is a key cog in Jurgen Klopp’s machine.

Milner’s contract is set to expire next summer and given his contribution up to this point, a new deal seems more likely than not, but even if he were to depart after four seasons on Merseyside, he would depart as one of Liverpool’s greatest signings in recent decades, producing the same kind of impact as the much revered Gary McAllister, only over three extra years and taking the club to the next level in the Champions League final.

Sam is a football journalist focusing on English football at all levels and Spanish football. He also writes for Spain's biggest daily sports newspaper, MARCA, as well as The Boot Room. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.


Three reasons Liverpool fans will instantly love Naby Keita

The former Leipzig man has already been a big hit with the fans.

Max Cohen



Naby Keita
Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool‘s new centre-midfielder Naby Keïta recently opened up on his footballing career in an interview in The Guardian, offering fascinating insights into his life that will surely endear him to the Anfield faithful.

From his childhood dreams of playing for the Reds, his adoration of Steven Gerrard, and his friendship with Sadio Mané, here are three reasons Keïta appears a perfect fit for Liverpool.

The midfielder grew up wearing a Liverpool kit when playing football

During Keïta’s childhood in Guinea, he honed his skills playing football on the streets. In the interview, the midfielder said he donned the iconic Liverpool kit during these exploits.

“As a kid we used to play in the streets wearing a Liverpool shirt,” Keïta said, revealing his long-standing connection with the club. Although many new signings tend to claim they dreamed of playing for the club when they grew up, for the Guinean the statement rings true.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Steven Gerrard served as one of his footballing inspirations

Along with Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta, Keïta lists Steven Gerrard as one of his footballing inspirations. He imagined himself as the Liverpool legend when he was a youngster, and also shares Gerrard’s famed number 8.

“Because I’m a midfielder and Steven Gerrard was always the boss of the team I couldn’t be anyone else but Steven Gerrard when I played,” Keïta said.

And fittingly, Gerrard was on hand to gift the new signing his new number when Keïta officially joined Liverpool.

Keïta has a close relationship with Sadio Mané

When deciding on whether to move to Liverpool, the Guinean international said he consulted with Mané, a player he has a close relationship with. The Senegalese winger convinced Keïta to sign for the Reds, and hopefully their chemistry off the pitch will translate into goals galore for Liverpool.

“Sadio is like a brother to me. We had nine months together at Salzburg and built up a good rapport. We have been great friends since that time. He told me what a great club this was and how the team was progressing and had great potential,” Keïta said.

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Three ins and outs Liverpool could complete this week

Liverpool have already made several new additions this summer.



Photo: Getty Images.

Liverpool have been extremely active during the summer transfer window and there is every chance that boss Jurgen Klopp might not be finished reshaping his squad just yet, with more new arrivals potentially on the horizon at the club.

The Reds finished in fourth last season and after splashing the cash on Naby Keita, Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alisson Becker, there is a real sense that they must make a genuine attempt to challenge for the title during the forthcoming campaign.

The elusive Premier League crown is one that Liverpool desperately crave and Klopp will understand that thought process from the club’s ardent supporters, with the German mightily keen to ensure that the club one day gets their hands on the ultimate prize.

With the transfer window starting to hot up as the season gets closer, we take a look at three deals that could be completed by the Anfield-based club during the next week…

New central defender set to check-in?

According to reports in Turkish newspaper Milliyet, Liverpool have begun negotiations with Turkish club Besiktas over a deal that will see defender Domagoj Vida arrive at Anfield ahead of next season.

The reports claim that the Croatian defender caught the eye of Jurgen Klopp during the summer’s World Cup and it could take a fee in the region of £26 million to prise him away from his current club.

It would see Vida link-up with fellow compatriot Dejan Lovren, although given the fantastic form of Virgil van Dijk last season, it seems quite likely that Vida will take Lovren’s place should he complete a deal to Liverpool.

(Photo by Alexander Nemenov/Getty Images)

Goalkeeping departure

With the arrival of Alisson Becker from Roma it seems extremely likely that one of Lorius Karius or Simon Mignolet will leave the Reds this summer and speculation surrounding the duo’s futures could intensify this week.

According to a report in Bild, German giants Bayern Munich could be eyeing-up a move for the Reds ‘keeper as cover for Manuel Neuer.

It would represent a somewhat surprising move considering the error-prone nature of Karius but the report appears to suggest that a £10.7 million offer could be imminent from the Bundesliga champions.

Youngster to leave on loan

Young striker Ben Woodburn looks set to be a striker in demand this summer, particularly if Jurgen Klopp lets him go out on loan for the 2018/19 campaign.

It was claimed last week in the Sheffield Star, that Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder would potentially be interested in the 18-year-old but the boss did say that he would likely face competition for his temporary services.

It remains to be seen where Klopp sees Woodburn in his plans, but there is every possibility that this week could be the one where a decision is finally made on where he will play football next season.

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Does the arrival of Alisson make Liverpool genuine title contenders?

The Brazilian arrived for a £67 million fee this week.

Martyn Cooke



Photo: Getty Images

It is nearly 28 years since Liverpool last won a top-flight title in English football and it is fair to say that the club have struggled to match the exploits of their illustrious past during the Premier League era.

Supporters have had to be content watching from afar as Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City have come to dominate the top flight of English football whilst Leicester City fans will take every opportunity to highlight their own unexpected title triumph three years ago.

It would be fair to say that Liverpool have not necessarily offered many genuine challenges for the Premier League title over the last two decades. Yes, there were near misses during the reigns Rafa Benitez and Brendan Rodgers, but those exploits have been the exception rather than the rule.

The Reds have undoubtedly made significant progress under the stewardship of Jurgen Klopp over the previous two years and there has been a sense around Anfield that the charismatic German has been building a team capable of reaching the pinnacle of the domestic game.

Reaching the Champions League final last season, although ultimately ending in defeat, highlighted how far the team have come in a relatively short space of time.

(Photo by Filipp Monteforte/Getty Images)

However, there has also been a sense that Klopp has been missing a couple of crucial pieces of jigsaw as he developed his new-look Liverpool side.

His team produces exciting, dynamic and fast flowing football that results in plenty of goals and entertainment, yet this has often been undermined by defensive frailties.

Ask any supporter which two positions have needed strengthening and you are likely to receive the same two answers – central defence and goalkeeper.

The purchase of Virgil van Dijk in January for £75 million was a definitive signal of intent and more than adequately fulfilled the need for a dominant, commanding central defender.

The Dutchman was increasingly impressive during the second half of the season and everyone could acknowledge the positive impact that he had on the defensive unit.

The need for a goalkeeper was ruthlessly highlighted in the Champions League final in May.

Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet had shared goalkeeping duties over the previous two seasons but it was the German stopper that had emerged as the club’s number one.

However, two crucial mistakes in Kiev ultimately gifted Read Madrid the Champions League trophy whilst firmly highlighting Liverpool’s need for a world-class goalkeeper if they had any intention of challenging the best clubs in Europe.

Therefore, the arrival of Brazilian stopper Alisson this week from Roma in a £67 million deal comes as little surprise.

The 25-year-old was the leading goalkeeper in Serie A last season, no mean feat considering the presence of Gianluigi Buffon and Gianluigi Donnarumma in the top flight of Italian football.

He was also first choice for the national team in the summer at the 2018 World Cup in Russia where he was selected ahead of Manchester City stopper Ederson, further underlining how highly he is rated.

(Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

The final piece of the jigsaw?

Jurgen Klopp has now addressed the two key issues in the Liverpool team by purchasing the best goalkeeper and central defender that money could buy – both are world record fees for players in their position – in the last two transfer windows.

Is Alisson the final piece of the jigsaw that will facilitate a genuine title challenge from Liverpool this season? Supporters are certainly hoping imagine so.

The Reds now have a squad that is full of creativity and goals whilst also now, following the arrivals of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, being built on a strong defensive foundation. You already sense that there will be a much greater balance to the Liverpool team next season.

It is also worth noting that the importance of having a world class goalkeeper is often understated in the media.

Whilst a star striker who scores goals on a regular basis may be a more appealing sight, a good stopper is worth their weight in gold and can easily earn their side an extra 10 points per season if they produce crucial saves at vital moments.

It is hard to think of a Premier League winning side that did not possess a quality goalkeeper.

Last season Manchester City had Ederson. During their most successful period Chelsea had Petr Cech in his prime. Further back, the title successes masterminded by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United were based on the goalkeeping greatness of Edwin van der Saar and Peter Schmeichel.

Liverpool have undoubtedly made rapid progress under Klopp over the previous twelve months and the German has spent over £400 million since his appointment to build a team in his own image. Alisson is the final missing piece.

Manchester City may well have waltzed to the Premier League title last season but Liverpool have positioned themselves as the club most likely to challenge the champions in the forthcoming campaign.

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