Somehow, on a pitch containing Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Mohamed Salah and numerous other superstars costing massive transfer fees, James Milner was pretty much the man of the match for Liverpool in their Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain.
At the age of 32, it’s a little puzzling as to why we’re all just realising how good he is now – with the midfielder on the scene since he was a teenager at Leeds United back in the early 2000s.
MORE: (Photo) James Milner cements status as Liverpool legend by brilliantly trolling Neymar on Instagram
Back then a bit of a wonderkid, Milner faded for a few years after never quite looking suited to that billing, almost as if he was destined to be an experienced, seasoned 30-plus pro.
Still, maybe we could all have paid a little more attention and seen this coming, with Milner undoubtedly an unsung hero in his time at Manchester City and a player the club clearly didn’t want to lose despite all the other superstars on their books.
An old Manuel Pellegrini quote is just one of our ELEVEN reasons Milner should be your favourite player in the Premier League, perhaps the world, right now. Here goes…
He has more assists than Paul Scholes
No, we’re not making this up. If Paul Scholes is the creative midfield legend we’re so often told he is, then what is Milner?
The 32-year-old has a hugely impressive record now of 76 assists in the Premier League to Scholes’ 55, and 11 in the Champions League to Scholes’ 9 – and let’s not forget he’s played in it quite a bit less often than Scholes did.
Oh yeah, and he topped the Champions League assist charts in the competition last season with eight in all, more than Uefa’s recent best-player winner Luka Modric.
He’s never lost a Premier League game in which he’s scored
That’s a run of 48 games now. Pretty extraordinary. No wonder Liverpool have him on penalty-taking duty these days.
He won’t let a massive gash on his head stop him playing
I mean, of course he didn’t…
He can play pretty much every position perfectly
Remember when he spent a season at left-back and didn’t complain, and was in fact pretty much the best left-back in the Premier League for much of that year?
And that arguably isn’t even the most far-out tactical experiment he’s been the guinea pig for, having also played at centre-forward for a brief period at Manchester City, and also looking surprisingly really good there.
Could he be the most complete English player? His old manager at City Manuel Pellegrini certainly thought so with this gushing praise in a Guardian interview back in 2015:
“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’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.”
His first tweet was a work of art
— James Milner (@JamesMilner) March 22, 2018
As was this brutal dig at Harry Kane
Another hat-trick for Mo today…. just waiting for the other two to be confirmed by the claims panel? https://t.co/GPYt4vHMn8
— James Milner (@JamesMilner) April 14, 2018
He scored a comical own-goal and trolled himself for it
Some might feel a little aggrieved at a ball bouncing in off their face in a Champions League semi-final, but Milner took it well…
— James Milner (@JamesMilner) May 2, 2018
His undying love for Ribena
Glass of red tonight, @JamesMilner?
"I might stretch myself to a Ribena!"
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 2, 2018
He showed ZERO respect to Neymar on the pitch…
— .. … — .- .. .-.. (@0Shalashaska) September 18, 2018
…And then off it
He was free
Picture this: Liverpool beat Manchester City to the Premier League title this season thanks to a starring role from a player the Reds poached from them on a free transfer because he couldn’t get past the numerous pricey big-name signings in their expensively-assembled squad. Could there be a more fitting tribute to this man’s career?