If you’d asked any Liverpool fan when he first signed, few would have pegged James Milner as being key to the club’s chances of getting back on their perch. A solid player but not especially flashy, he arrived as a good signing—but he was hardly the marquee sort.
Five seasons later, and Milner has proven one of the club’s best signings of the Premier League era, key to last season’s 97 league points and sixth European cup and again integral this year as Jürgen Klopp’s men push to break the cub’s now thirty-year title drought.
“Exceptional, exceptional,” was all that Klopp could say when he was asked about Milner’s importance to this squad, to how the team plays, and even to him as a manager. “It just sets the benchmark, that you’re 33 and doing things like this. Obviously age is no issue.”
With his appearance against Leicester City on Saturday, Milner has now made 188 appearances in Red, which puts the 33-year-old just 15 appearances away from equalling the 203 he made for Liverpool’s rivals in the title chase this season, Manchester City.
If he makes 16 more appearances this season—and as of now at least he seems certain to—he will have played more games for Liverpool than for any other club in his career. It’s no less than Brendan Rodgers, the manager who signed him, says he would have expected.
“It’s interesting because he wanted to come to Liverpool,” Rodgers noted. He had won the Premier League, he had won cups, [but] his whole ambition was to win the Champions League and he felt that he would have a better opportunity to win it at Liverpool.
“Even though it was only a short time we worked together, he was always going to be a really good signing. He was brilliant. Then you see what he has done—he is just a top class professional and he has done absolutely brilliant for the club.”