By the end of 2019-20 , his fifth for the club, James Milner will have played more games for Liverpool than for any other club in his career. And despite now being 33 years of age it would probably be foolish to assume this, his 18th season as a professional footballer, will be his final one in red.
His versatility, leadership, and determination have made him an integral part of Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool side since the German manager arrived at Anfield, and despite being the club’s resident veteran, the manager insists that Milner is a better player now than he was three years ago.
“I was blessed to have a few players like this,” Klopp said during a break in pre-season training when asked about vice-captain Milner and his role in the squad. “Sebastian Kehl, for example, at Dortmund was a more experienced player in a very young team and was a leader in that team.
“And I think Millie improved his football a lot in the last two or three years as well. His attitude is outstanding. Without Millie [last season] wouldn’t have been possible. His kind of a little bit dirty dressing-room talks, I cannot do, these things you say in the dressing room that I am not allowed to say in public. That’s the last little kick and that’s nice.”
Still, despite that Milner—who played nearly 3000 minutes across 45 games last season—at times looks like a machine who could keep playing forever, and despite that it would be foolish to assume he won’t be preparing for the 2020-21 season just like he now is for this one, Klopp is aware he’s not as young as some of his player.
“Millie looks again in the pre-season like in his early 20s,” the Liverpool manager added. “He isn’t, he knows that, and we try to respect that. But he is not only in the game not really stoppable, in training it’s the same. All good.”