James Milner showed his value to Jurgen Klopp against Ajax. The 34-year-old leads the Champions League in one particular stat.
James Milner started in the Champions League on Wednesday as Liverpool faced Ajax. The 34-year-old wore the armband, in fact, as Jordan Henderson spent the first half on the bench.
Milner didn’t have the most notable game in the world, truth be told. It was a strange game that Liverpool struggled to control and as a result, Milner spent much of his time covering for the runs of teammates.
And in doing so, Milner sits at the top of the charts for the entire Champions League after match week one.
Per UEFA’s stats, Milner ran 12,636m against Ajax. Not only is that more than anyone else managed in the 16 games this week, but it’s comfortably the most.
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Second place Jonas Hofman ran 12,518m for Borussia Monchengladbach – over 100m fewer than Milner.
So if anyone ever doubts Milner’s value to Klopp and Liverpool, remember this. The 34-year-old has an engine like no one else, capable of covering ground at an extraordinary rate.
And in a Liverpool side built around pressing and runs from deep, that’s vital. Milner probably can’t do this every week but as a squad option, he’s worth a fortune to this side.
It’s worth adding that he didn’t just run about aimlessly, either. Milner completed the most tackles v Ajax (six) and the most interceptions (five), per Whoscored. Only Internazionale’s Arturo Vidal combined for more (12) over the match week.
We can expect him to play a real role this season, then, especially now Fabinho is spending time in defence. Milner has proven that he can come in and cover the space that Klopp needs. That could be drifting left to cover Andy Robertson, it could be pressing in the opposition half.
No matter what it is, Milner can do it for 90 minutes. And that’s a real luxury to have.