James Milner is a special, special footballer. Highly durable, incredibly athletic, tactically sound, and hilarious to boot, Milner’s age-defying season to this point is yet another notch to add to an already very impressive resume. That he has transformed from ho-hum signing to fan favorite in his time at Anfield is a testament to that plucky spirit that he embodies.
Jurgen Klopp obviously counts himself among Milner’s admirers. At Klopp’s press conference ahead of the Premier League’s marquee match-up with last season’s champions, Manchester City, Milner’s name was brought up as a former City player. Jurgen only had words of praise to drop on behalf of the center midfielder.
“When people say he is a ‘work horse’, for me it is always a compliment. He is naturally fit, an athlete. I was open and he matched the expectation I had after a few weeks – or even better.”
Klopp cited Milner’s willingness to being deployed at left-back in 2015 as an example of the footballer’s perfect attitude. Milner could have, at that point in his career and having achieved quite a bit already, refused to take the field or chosen to seek an exit elsewhere. Klopp, after all, wasn’t the manager who had brought him into the fold. It is a testament to Milner’s grit and mindset that he put his head down and got to work. Klopp even thinks that the time out on the flank might have benefitted Milner as it gave him a different, broader perspective of the pitch. Looking at the results in this season, it appears to be true as the already tactically sound central midfielder has rarely seemed to have put a foot wrong.
Headed into this primetime match up - and on the heels of a difficult two weeks for Liverpool - Klopp will need Milner and the rest of their Reds to be at their best. If there’s anyone on the squad that can be counted on to be ready come kick off, though, it’s Liverpool’s own Mr. Steady, James Milner.