Martin King explains why James Milner remains one of Liverpool’s most important players despite summer signings in midfield threatening to knock him down the pecking order.

Well, John wasn’t exactly the boogeyman. He was the one you sent to kill the f*cking boogeyman!

Sounds familiar? You may recognize it from watching ‘John Wick’, as it’s one of the hit film’s top quotes.

Used as a compliment to the main character, the line references Wick’s outstanding ability to consistently take on the most dangerous assignments without failing – even when the odds are firmly stacked against him, he just won’t die.

Bring it back to football and Liverpool may just have their own version of Wick in James Milner.

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The new Premier League season’s first two games have produced a string of outstanding performances from the Reds’ attacking and defensive players. At the forefront of the praise for these displays have been the club’s high profile stars.

Names like Sadio Mané, Virgil van Dijk and Naby Keïta immediately spring to mind, so it is particularly interesting that Milner, who has been just as influential to the team’s success, isn’t acknowledged as highly as these.

Indeed, his is a John Wick-esque focus, commitment and sheer will that stretches far beyond this early season.

Age really is just a number!

“I’m going to have to take the old jokes – I’m used to deflecting the flak onto him [Ragnar Klavan] but now I’m on my own!”

 
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These were Milner’s words, according to Liverpool’s official website, as he spoke of his role as the most senior figure in the team’s dressing room, following defender Klavan’s departure to Cagliari. Both teammates and the watching world may poke some fun at the midfielder for his age but the one thing no one will find fault in is the Englishman’s track record.

His combination of class on the ball and graft off it is one of the reasons he has found so much favour in manager Jürgen Klopp’s books, operating as a central midfielder with the free licence of linking up play on the attack and breaking it down in defence. Ever ready and able to extend himself for the sake of the team, Milner has also served as a left-back, helping to shore up Liverpool’s options defensively.

From these positions, Klopp’s vice-captain has recorded 15 goals and 30 assists in all competitions since his arrival on a free transfer in 2015. The former Manchester City man has not featured in less than 30 games per season for Liverpool since then and that he remains so reliable at the age of 32, in a squad of ever-increasing quality, proves that age really is just a number.

Klopp’s headache

Milner’s performances against West Ham United and most recently at Crystal Palace – where he netted from the spot in pure Milner fashion – will undoubtedly give his manager a serious headache.

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When Klopp considers his line-up for Liverpool’s upcoming match at home to Brighton & Hove Albion, the German will have to decide whether he sticks with the Englishman or gives midfielder Fabinho his home debut.

The Brazilian joined the club in a £43.7 million deal from French side Monaco and has been in high demand from observers who consider him to be the Merseysiders’ answer to the question of a top class defensive midfielder.

We will only find out before the league match itself, who starts between the two, however, regardless of that, it should be noted that Milner remains one of the Reds’ most important players.

His leadership and title-winning experience have been crucial to a team with relative inexperience in the field of winning trophies; like John Wick, he’s not going away anytime soon as Liverpool look to kill the boogeyman that is represented by their 27-year wait for a league title.

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