Saturday 22 October 2016

Comment: James Milner is not a boring signing - he is a transfer coup for Liverpool

The England international will add experience and endeavour to Brendan Rodgers' young squad and can act as a leader in the dressing room

Chris Bascombe

Published 04/06/2015 | 15:21

Manchester City's James Milner will join Liverpool on a free transfer.
Manchester City's James Milner will join Liverpool on a free transfer.

James Milner has given up a supporting role at Manchester City to become one of Brendan Rodgers’ chief lieutenants at Liverpool.

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With Steven Gerrard leaving this summer, the Liverpool manager knew he had to act to recruit a senior professional who would command respect on and off the pitch at Anfield.

Rodgers has often looked around his dressing this season and seen a group of talented but ultimately raw young players desperately in need of guidance from those more experienced. With the exception of Gerrard, it is debatable exactly how positive the influence of the older heads has been.

Indeed, in some cases there has been a feeling those out of the Liverpool team have been a negative influence on the fresh-faced recruits.

Milner will enthuse the Liverpool manager as someone whose professionalism will be the envy of most Premier League managers, not least Manuel Pellegrini, who was desperate to keep the 29-year-old.

Although some Liverpool supporters have expressed ambivalence regarding Milner’s pursuit and signing they are wrong to be dismissive. Liverpool’s recruitment staff have taken plenty of criticism – deservedly so in some cases – but this is a transfer coup that should not be underestimated.

It is rare for Liverpool to sign a player from one of the top Premier League teams, or more specifically, to lure a valued and much admired international whose club did not wish to lose him.

City offered Milner £160,000 a week to sign a new deal and he featured regularly last season in an effort to keep him. Milner had already decided he wanted to move to a club where he would be guaranteed his place – form permitting – rather than be subject to a rotation policy.

We don’t need to focus too much on the money angle. Only the naïve would suggest Milner will lose plenty financially by moving to Anfield, where it is believed he will command around £120,000 a week (as well as a signing on fee).

Nevertheless, it says much about his character that his personal growth as a footballer – joining a club thrust back into transition this summer – appeals more than staying at City, where he is guaranteed a title challenge and Champions League football, but was never sure of his role from one week to the next.

Liverpool supporters should welcome Milner as the antidote to so much that has happened at their club recently, where players join feeling they have nothing left to prove, or even perceive a trip to Merseyside as a stepping stone for greater wealth or success elsewhere.

The indications are Milner will play in a central role in Liverpool’s reshaped midfield, offering plenty of energy alongside Jordan Henderson.

Such is his versatility, however, the former Leeds and Aston Villa player will be equally comfortable in right midfield or even at right wing-back.

Earlier this week Jamie Carragher suggested Milner should be considered for the Liverpool captaincy. Rodgers’ delaying of confirmation on who takes the armband hints he wants to see how his squad evolves – it could look very different in August – before taking that decision.

Even if Milner does not earn that rapid promotion, he will join Liverpool’s dressing room as a leader - a player who has won titles and who commands respect.

As free transfers go, Liverpool have not made such an astute move for a class player who has cost no fee since Gary McAllister joined in 2000. Rodgers will be hoping Milner has exactly the same impact on the younger elements of his side.

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