Liverpool man James Milner liberated from Man City shackles

James Milner has agreed a deal with Liverpool. Credit: PA

By Will Unwin

James Milner was never set to win the Ballon D'Or nor was he ever likely to outshine Leo Messi in the Nou Camp, but any club in the world would love to him on their roster.

The England international broke onto the scene as a teenager at Leeds, impressing in the 2002-03 season, including a penalty on Boxing Day at Sunderland when he was just 16 years old.

Since then he has been around a few clubs, becoming a fixture at Newcastle and Aston Villa before Manchester City threw £26million in the direction of Villa Park to secure his services.

It was a still new era of wealth and success at the Etihad when Milner turned up. He expected to play for City, but the straightforward Yorkshireman was overshadowed by star names coming in from all parts of the world.

At City he was pushed to the subs bench, permanently ready to add energy in the final stages to ensure the opposition couldn't use a higher tempo to get back into the game.

He wanted to play in the centre of midfield, but it was a rarely seen sight due to the likes of Nigel De Jong, Yaya Toure and Fernandinho keeping him out of his preferred role.

Milner is happy to battle in midfield. Credit: PA

If a defensive shift was needed Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini were happy to utilise the England international on either flank to stop a marauding full-back or just provide cover for a sub-par defender of their own.

Last season Pellegrini attempt to offer Milner more time on the pitch, giving him 45 appearances for the City.

When play outwide, Milner shone, showing he was irreplaceable, as the club worried about his contract ticking down.

Without Yaya Toure for their Champions League first leg against Barcelona, Milner was given the task of keeping things quiet in midfield, but, having only operated their once previously in the campaign, Milner struggled against the Catalans superb midfield three, not helped by the fact his assistant was the incapable Fernando.

He was mocked for being nutmegged by Messi, but who hasn't had the mick taken out of them by the Argentine on the pitch?

Milner is not a replacement for Gerrard, but he will make up for the loss of experience. Credit: PA

His importance to Pellegrini was shown when City were without strikers for a period in the campaign, forcing him to use Milner as a lone frontman, where he performed admirably.

The Chilean acknowledged Milner's wide-ranging capabilities in a Guardian interview, he said: "I’m Milner’s No1 fan. Find me a more complete English player. There are players who’re better technically, yes. Quicker players, yes. Players who head better, yes. But show me one who does all the things Milner does well. There isn’t one.

Milner was loved by Manuel Pellegrini. Credit: PA

“It’s hard to leave him out. Respect, commitment and performance level: 10/10, fantastic. He’s polyfunctional: full-back – the only position he doesn’t like – attacking midfield, wide. I played him as a forward and the team averaged three goals a game. He gives everything. You leave him on the bench and he’s absolutely furious but watch him during the game: encouraging, shouting, supporting. And in the next training session he kills himself.

“Milner’s a phenomenon, a guy with big balls and a heart this big. Intelligent, great mentality, one of those players that when you leave him out you’re left with this feeling of injustice; it hurts because he should always play but sometimes you need a technical player with other characteristics. I hope he stays. If he doesn’t it will be because there’s an important offer.”

Milner is an England regular. Credit: PA

Pellegrini is not alone in his love for the cricket fan, the Etihad faithful are upset at his departure, something saved for few stars in the modern era.

Since making his England debut in 2009, Milner has barely missed an England squad and is a mainstay at major tournaments due to his commitment and versatility.

At Liverpool, given a run of games, Milner will be a capable man in the centre of the park, providing the added energy and experience, to make up for Steven Gerrard's departure.

His passing range isn't the best, but he will add an extra edge in the final third - he scored seven in final 18 appearances for City.

City reacted a little late to keeping Milner, but they certainly did their best by offering a contract worth £165,000 a week and sadly for them money was not what he wanted.

Milner is a team player on the pitch, but he thinks for himself off it and it's a sign of the man that he's shunned extra money and Champions League football for a chance to play the game he loves.