With much of the talk in the early going this summer focused on Liverpool’s need for a striker and the club’s controversial interest in Christian Benteke as the man to become Anfield’s new number one, an approach for midfielder James Milner has been advancing in the background. Less loud. Less controversial. Comparatively quiet and understated. Boring, even.
According to reports in the BBC and Liverpool Echo, though, it is Milner who is on the verge of becoming the club’s first signing of the summer, and a deal could be done within the week. It’s been about as drama free as a transfer saga could possibly be—to the point one hesitates to call it a saga despite that it has rumbled along for a few months now. Which does seem somewhat suiting for the workmanlike Milner.
While the Milner saga has lacked excitement, though, it is clear this is a player who would improve not only Liverpool but any of England’s top sides. Manchester City, his current employers, are almost invariably a better side when he is on the pitch, but the sheer wattage of star talent on the squad means he isn’t on the pitch as much as he perhaps should be, and that is at the root of his desire to change clubs.
City have reportedly offered Milner nearly £200k a week to keep the talented, hard working midfielder at the club. Milner, though, wants to start every week while he’s still at his physical peak, and with Steven Gerrard departing, it’s clear he will get that at Liverpool. He will also be paid well for his efforts, though perhaps less well than at City, with conflicting reports of anything from £100-150k a week being offered.
That’s steep for a club like Liverpool, but it does represent a pay cut from Milner’s current £165k deal—especially if the high end reflects what his wage would be if he hits any performance escalators and the base is closer to £100k. And at least there is little risk when it comes to Milner. He’s a proven performer who makes one of the most expensive sides in world football better, and there should be no adjustment period required. There will also be no transfer fee to pay.
Rumour suggests it will be a four year deal, which means a wage commitment of £20-30M. It’s a lot, but on the open market, it’s not unreasonable to think at 29 years of age Milner would still fetch around £20M as a transfer fee. City, after all, paid £26M to get him from Aston Villa in 2010, and while he’s nearing the end of his prime years, he still is a player in his prime. A player who improves Liverpool’s first eleven.
For a club like Liverpool, needing to improve the first eleven to have any hope of making it back into the top four, that makes Milner a more than worthwhile target. If he's set to sign within the week, it also could make him something of a rarity this summer: a top four, Champions League calibre player moving to England's sixth-place side because he wants to play and believes he can find success at Anfield.
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