This article forms part of our Profit Players feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern takes a look at how well a player has fared since being signed or sold, using statistical figures and statements from pundits to prove how good of a deal the club managed to achieve.
As hard as it may seem to comprehend now, Manchester City finished only one position and three points ahead of Aston Villa in the Premier League 10 years ago. The Abu Dhabi United group had been in at the Etihad Stadium for two seasons but Champions League football remained elusive. In order to try and break through that glass ceiling, City’s hierarchy agreed a player swap with Aston Villa which also saw the Mancunian club part with £26m. While James Milner came north, Stephen Ireland moved in the other direction.
Milner made an instant impact on his debut, setting up Manchester City’s first goal for Gareth Barry in a 3-0 win over Liverpool – ironically, the scorer was an ex-Villa player who the Reds had tried and failed to sign a couple of years’ previously. The Leeds native started 23 league games under Roberto Mancini in his first season at the Etihad and helped them to clinch a Champions League place, along with winning the FA Cup.
Milner and the club had an even better campaign in 2011/12, with the Englishman netting three goals in City’s last-gasp Premier League triumph, chipping in with two assists in a 6-1 win at Manchester United along the way. His tally of league goals was one higher the following season but the title winged its way to the other side of Manchester in what proved to be a one-horse race.
Mancini made way for Manuel Pellegrini at the Etihad in 2013, with the Chilean often using Milner as Plan B – 19 of the midfielder’s 31 Premier League appearances in 2013/14 came as a substitute, yet he still ended the season with a goal and seven assists as City pipped Liverpool to the title, with a League Cup medal also making its way into Milner’s pocket that year.
His most fruitful campaign for the Cityzens also turned out to be his last one, with five goals and eight assists in 2014/15 as Pellegrini’s side gave second best to Chelsea. He was not offered a new contract at the end of that season and, after five years in Manchester, he made the short journey to Liverpool on a free transfer, where he continues to be a much-valued member of Jurgen Klopp’s title-winning squad.
Milner ended his time at Manchester City with 19 goals and 45 assists in 203 appearances, winning five trophies at the club, including that historic Premier League triumph in 2012, the first of four that City would enjoy in a glittering decade. A commendable team player, he lined up in no fewer than nine different positions during his time at the Etihad, most commonly across the midfield line but also playing in role as diverse as right-back and centre-forward (as per TransferMarkt).
At which club did James Milner play his best football?
The 61-cap England international has since gone on to win another four trophies at Liverpool, including the Champions League and a third Premier League title, although he only had a watching brief from the substitutes’ bench as his former club beat his current side 4-0 at the Etihad on Thursday.
While Milner went on to have a trophy-laden decade and play his part in Manchester City’s rise to Premier League stardom, Ireland’s career faded out at Aston Villa and Stoke. On reflection, £26m was a small sum to pay for an exchange which worked out greatly in the Cityzens’ favour.
Man City fans, did you think Milner was perhaps underappreciated in his time at the Etihad? Comment below with your views!
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