Liverpool midfielder James Milner has admitted that his role at the club has changed drastically over the last six years.
Despite turning thirty-seven earlier this year, Milner has still found himself regularly utilised by Jurgen Klopp this season. But speaking to Michael Owen on liverpoolfc.com, the veteran said that he’s had to adapt to a new reality over time.
“My role has changed. My role at Liverpool now is what’s needed, can I be ready, always be ready,” Milner said. “Wherever the manager wants to play me, if there’s injuries, if he needs a specific job in a game. I think that role’s been there for a while really.”
After starting 64 Premier League games in his first two seasons at Anfield, the Reds No.7 has began just 71 in the five-and-three-quarters campaigns since. Although his importance to the squad remains, Milner recognises he’s not the key player he was.
“I’d say the year I played left-back is probably the last time you’re playing a bit for yourself – the team always comes first, but since then my role has been what’s needed I’ll do,” he said. “I realise that’s my role now and that’s an important one.”
Milner still crucial for Klopp
Looking at the figures around Milner’s Liverpool career, it’s undeniable that his job in the team has shifted over time. Brought in as a midfielder, he subsequently did a fine impression of a left-back in 2016/17, before settling into his current role.
Now used primarily as an auxiliary right-back and/or an extra midfielder to see tight games out, no Reds fan would want to see him starting regularly.
But that doesn’t mean he isn’t handy to have around. Klopp has often commented on how Milner still believes he should be playing every game, he doesn’t like not being in the team.
As the Yorkshireman’s words here show though, he is fully accepting of his job. The 37-year-old is a pragmatic footballer and seemingly a logical man, too.
Milner knows that there are players in this Liverpool team who will always be starting ahead of him. Rather than sulk and bemoan that fact, he’s seemingly able to put it to one side and focus on his very specific role. You can’t put a price on having that kind of player in your squad.
One thing’s for sure, if Liverpool don’t give Milner and extension on his current £120k-a-week deal, they’ll miss him next season. It might not feel like it right now, but the vice-captain is still very much a crucial part of this Reds’ side. Few would complain if he were to leave, but maybe we should all be a little careful what we wish for.
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