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.
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.