When Liverpool managed to steal James Milner away from Manchester City, it was something of a minor coup in English football. City had been set on keeping hold of the versatile veteran, but they couldn’t guarantee the kind of minutes Milner wanted, and so the player began to look around for options.
In total, he had 14 clubs reach out, interested in securing his services, including sides in Spain and Italy. Milner, though, wanted to stay in the North-West, where he’d begun to put down roots during his time at City. And in the end, then-Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had convinced him to take on a new challenge.
“It was a difficult decision,” said agent Matthew Buck in an interview on the 5Times podcast. “He assessed his options, looked at his age and how often he was playing, and felt he wasn’t getting as many starts at Man City as he would have liked. James realised that to play regular football he needed to move on for a fresh challenge.
“From January onwards we had interest from Italy and Spain. In total about 14 clubs made contact. At the end of the day we had a few meetings with Liverpool and James realised that it was a challenge he wanted to take on. For James, it’s been a great move, and hopefully he can bring some silverware to the club.”
Of course, things haven’t quite gone to plan at Liverpool. Rodgers’ attempts to get things back on track at the club following a disappointing 2014-15 ended in an autumn sacking. And following the departure of Rodgers, Milner has found himself a regular starter at a brand new position.
A move to left back as a 30-year-old veteran isn’t what he would have expected when he signed for Liverpool, but it’s a move he has done his best to embrace, and his agent insists it isn’t a problem for Milner—even if it’s not where he thought he would end up when he bought into Rodgers’ plan.
“James would say he’s gone from one world class manager to another,” added Buck. “He has huge respect for Jurgen. He’s 30 but always learning. Left back is a difficult one as he’s naturally right footed. I wouldn’t say he finds it easy, but as people know from his personality and temperament he will always put the team first.
“It’s a fluid system. He got a couple of assists against Burton as he got forward a lot. It was the same at Tottenham. But you still have to have that discipline to fill in and cover defensively. He’s learning all the time. With no international football, he’s extremely focused on doing the best he can for Liverpool.”