How James Milner became one of the most reliable players in the Premier League
In a sport that is dominated by skill, fancy flicks and wonder goals, the dependable utility player has largely gone under the radar over the past ten years. Every side needs a player to dig in and complete the job with ultimate professionalism and James Milner is one of a handful of top-flight players who will guarantee at least a 7/10 performance every single week.
Potential stars of the future will gaze in admiration at the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and even Sergio Aguero as they steal the headlines on a daily basis. These types of players are a joy to watch and can light up any game. Whilst every manager would love a Messi or Ronaldo in their squad they would also be happy with at least one James Milner!
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The former Leeds man is a perfect role model to younger players coming through the academy and is the poster boy for knuckling down, training hard and sensible living. Milner doesn't drink and he is unlikely to be snapped by the paparazzi coming out of a nightclub less than 24 hours before a big match and, perhaps most crucially, he works hard in training to ensure he never lets the side down.
His current boss Jurgen Klopp labelled him one of the top five professionals he's ever worked with and has admitted his transition to left-back this season has helped the balance of the team. Milner was signed from Manchester City and expected to compete for a midfield spot but the club's unsuccessful search for left-back resulted in a shortage, which Milner duly filled. His versatility was crucial and although he was initially unsure about the switch he has studied the requirements and slotted in perfectly. The 31-year-old has stressed he is happy to help the team in any capacity and will plug any gaps in the side.
Klopp is aiming to eventually move Milner back to his preferred position as the search for a left-back continues throughout the summer months. If the German coach can recruit sensibly in defence, Liverpool could be a force to be reckoned with next season and have been priced at 12/1 in the Premier League betting for the title next season.
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Future players can learn an incredible amount from James Milner and the way he conducts himself on and off the pitch. He set up the James Milner Foundation, which benefits young people and encourages their interest in sports and recreation. He's organised a number of star-studded events, which have helped raise funds for the cause.
Every young person dreams of scoring a goal in the Champions League final or netting a hat-trick on their debut but if you're genuinely hoping for a long and successful career as a top-flight player then James Milner is the perfect example. He has sustained his time at the top by working hard, remaining flexible and going into every match with a determined attitude. He is a manager's dream and is one of the first names on the teamsheet. There is a lot to be learnt from the former Manchester City player and following his lead is likely to help any career flourish in the long term.