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Flashback: Liverpool’s signing of James Milner has shown they can get it right with free transfers

In our latest instalment of the Flashback series, we take a look back at a certain moment and look at how things might have changed those initial reactions.

Liverpool have not always had the best of luck when it comes to free transfers. Striker Andriy Voronin came to the club from Bayer Leverkusen on a free in 2007 a year after helping Ukraine to reach the quarter-finals in their first World Cup, but would score just six times in 40 games for the Reds and was shipped out on loan to Hertha Berlin before leaving permanently for Dynamo Moscow in January 2010.

Six months after Voronin left, Joe Cole rocked up at Anfield fresh from winning a third Premier League title with Chelsea. The attacking midfielder, who was on £90,000 a week at Anfield, was sent off on his league debut for the Reds against Arsenal and netted just five times in 42 appearances before rejoining West Ham in January 2013, via a loan spell at Lille in 2011/12.

Therefore, Reds fans could have been forgiven for not getting too excited when a 29-year-old James Milner signed on a free transfer from Manchester City in June 2015, with Liverpool having just said goodbye to fellow England midfielder Steven Gerrard a month previously. Indeed, some Reds supporters on Twitter were far from convinced that it was an astute signing:

The ex-Leeds man was soon installed as the Reds’ vice-captain by Brendan Rodgers, though, and skippered the side in just his third league game for the club, a 0-0 draw against Arsenal. His first season at Anfield ended with seven goals, 14 assists and a Europa League final appearance.

He played in all but two Premier League games in 2016/17, scoring seven times (all from the penalty spot) as Liverpool claimed a top-four finish by a point ahead of Arsenal. Those spot kicks were ultimately worth an extra five points to the Reds in the final reckoning and included vital penalties in games at Tottenham, Manchester United and former club Manchester City.

His 2017/18 goal contribution was far lower, scoring just once all season, but he still played in 11 games on Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final, including in the decider against Real Madrid in Kiev.

Milner’s penalty spot prowess was again to the fore last season, with five of his seven goals coming from 12 yards, including a decisive late winner at Fulham during the Premier League title run-in, as well as netting in both Champions League games against Paris Saint-Germain. [via TransferMarkt]

He again showed nerves of steel from the spot on Saturday to score a stoppage-time penalty against Leicester and maintain Liverpool’s 100% start to their league campaign. [via Sky Sports]

A midfielder by trade, the 32-year-old showed his versatility by operating at left-back for almost all of the 2016/17 season, generally being preferred to natural left-back Alberto Moreno in that position.

With 24 goals in 188 Liverpool appearances, compared to 19 in 203 games for Manchester City, Milner has proven a very effective signing by the Reds with so many crucial goals, not least from pressurised penalty situations.

What a delicious irony it would be for the Anfield faithful if Milner, who didn’t cost Liverpool a transfer fee, goes on to play a decisive role as the Reds supplant his former club as Premier League champions this season.

Will Liverpool win the Premier League title this season?

Yes

Yes

No

No

Liverpool fans, did you think the signing of Milner on a free in 2015 was a good move at the time? Have you revised your opinion since then? Share your views in the comments section below!

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Flashback: Liverpool’s signing of James Milner has shown they can get it right with free transfers
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