James Milner is a left-back now. The left-back spot was one of the most commonly acknowledged weak links in Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool side this summer, with Alberto Moreno seemingly failing to deliver on the promise the Reds paid £12m for back in 2014, or at the very least failing to impress his German manager in the run-up to the 16/17 season. So Liverpool were signing Jonas Hector, right up until they weren't. Full-backs were linked and dismissed on a weekly basis, until the transfer window closed shut and fans were left accepting that the rumoured £70m transfer kitty would go unspent, and James Milner is a left-back now.
To his credit, the former Leeds, Newcastle, and Manchester City man has acquitted himself well at his new position, producing characteristically sturdy defensive performances, while chipping in with three assists and six penalty goals. He may cut back onto his right foot ninety-eight percent of the time, and he may possess a perfectly square cranium, but the free transfer utility man has to be considered a success story at this point in his Liverpool career.
That's not to say that the Reds will never look for another, more natural, left-back, however, and the club has recently been linked with Real Betis' Danish defender Riza Durmisi. The former Brøndby man and Daniel Agger team-mate has only been with the Béticos since the summer, but has established himself as a starter in the absence of Peruvian Juan Vargas, as the club continue to set roots in the middle of the table.
The 3rd generation Dane — whose family hails from Albania — is the quintessential modern fullback; possessing pace and aggression and willingness to throw himself into the attack at every opportunity. He contributed a goal or assist every 400 or so minutes in the Danish Superliga, but has only been able to notch two assists in his 1240 minutes in Spain so far. His crosses find their man 26% of the time, and one in ten creates a chance for a team-mate. His left foot is predictably accurate, and he was a regular set piece taker in Denmark.
On the defensive end, Durmisi is less involved than your typical fullback, averaging 2.9 ball recoveries per 90 minutes — for comparison, Nathaniel Clyne generally averages around 4 — but his one-on-one defending is terrific, as evidenced by the fact that he has only been beaten eight times in his twelve appearances for Los Verdiblancos this year. Certain tactical blunders are to be expected of a 23-year old making such a leap in competition — in particular one as attack-minded as Durmisi — but it is worth noting that the man who once assisted Daniel Agger on a corner has been able to curb his instincts in making the transition from perennial near-contender Brøndby to mid-table Betis, playing a more conservative game when needed.
In the end, however, the reported £17m price tag is sure to raise some rightful questions, and it seems a price Klopp would be unlikely to pay given his unwillingness to spend big on long shots. If nothing else, the mongers have added another name to their rumour rolodex when the summer transfer window comes around.