James Milner has eternally commanded a reputation which devalues his attacking contribution, but the statistics paint a different picture altogether.
Boring James Milner; the player who does everything with immaculate precision and consistency without ever sending pulses racing.
Well, that’s a false perception which has evolved in the media over the years due to his incredible professionalism and burly counter-exotic Yorkshire charm, as well as the rise of a notorious parody Twitter account.
But don’t be fooled by the persona which has effectively been created for him. Milner is so much more than just a functional utility player, and the impact he has made in the Champions League since the beginning of last season serves to illuminate his attacking quality.
Indeed, the 32-year-old slotted the ball into Mo Salah for Liverpool’s qualification-sealing goal against Napoli on Tuesday evening, which took his tally of assists in the competition to nine since the beginning of the 2017/18 campaign.
Significantly, that’s more than any other player in the competition. Neymar sits in second in the assists charts with just five, and BT Sport Owen Hargreaves was eager to pay tribute to Milner for what he has achieved in Europe in the past eighteen months.
While speaking on the Champions League highlights show on BT Sport on Tuesday evening (23:15), Hargreaves claimed Milner is “up there with some of the best in the competition.”
Well, statistically speaking, he’s actually top of the pile in terms of assists, and his importance to Liverpool’s efforts on the European stage simply cannot be underestimated.
Without Milner’s delivery from dead ball situations and defence splitting through balls Liverpool would be a shadow of the menacing side they are in Europe, and they will need him to extend his form into 2019 to ensure they stand a chance of lifting their sixth ever European cup.
The likes of Alisson, Virgil Van Dijk and Mo Salah will sweep the plaudits after their impact helped Liverpool secure a place in the knockout stages of the competition, but Milner deserves his moment in the limelight after another complete display in the heart of midfield.
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