Jurgen Klopp has heaped praise on utility-star James Milner, hailing him as a ‘perfect professional’ who is among the top five player he has ever worked with. The German manager’s comments come where he has reinvented himself as a left-back. A position he has made his own ousting Alberto Moreno.
Impressed at left-back
Milner has impressed his manager to such an extent that Klopp decided not to sign a new left-back during the summer transfer window. In fact at this moment Liverpool haven’t been linked to any Left-backs for the past few months. Milner acknowledges that it’s been a challenge switching to the new position but he’s happy to play there all season. “All my career being in the midfield or higher up than that you have got people behind you. You are working in pairs when you play further up but you are more of a unit when you are playing at left-back.”
As quoted in the Mirror, Klopp said: “I have nothing bad to say about any of my players, but he is certainly in the top five.”
“I have been very lucky to surround myself with great professionals, but Milly is 100 per cent in the top five. Yes, he is the perfect professional.”
Klopp went on to discuss Milner’s reputation off the field, which has seen a ‘boring James Milner’ parody account made on Twitter, something that couldn’t be further than the truth, according to the Anfield boss.
“I heard this once. But it could not be further from the truth,” Klopp added. “He is a proper English professional.
“With the humour and – what do you say? – big mouth! He is a very funny person. I have no idea where it came from. But perhaps it is about having the same haircut since he was at Leeds!”
One of the main reasons that Milner transferred from Manchester City to Liverpool was because he wanted to play centrally. Despite this he has had some of his better games playing wide. So the next logical step for Klopp would be to play him further back, where he has played 14 games out of 16 from left-back so far this season. “When I heard that Liverpool had signed him, I thought it was really good and that was at a time I had no idea that I would be part of his football development.
Quality allowed the switch
“I know Milly and he wants to play always. Maybe that was not the case at City and it made sense to leave.”
“From the outside, it looks a difficult transition – to come from a wide position or central midfield to specialist role at full-back.
Klopp knows and appreciates how football-smart Milner is. The fact that he’s able to adapt and make the switch says more about his quality to make that switch. It would not have been the smartest decision if he said he didn’t want to do it. He has great instincts and is able to use this to influence the play more than most think. “People say he doesn’t look like a left-back because most of the time they are defensive-minded, but a lot of time he is running into spaces looking to attack.”
“We didn’t want to make him a left-back. We only want someone who can have an influence on the game from this position. That is why we thought it might be a good idea.”
“He has had to deal with situations like this in a long career already. He was open and I was not surprised by that.
The question is how long will it last? What does the future hold for him in this position? At this moment the squad is young, he adds the assurance at the back which is needed.