In an ideal world, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp would have already snapped up the next Roberto Carlos for under £5m as competition for Alberto Moreno at left-back, or even landed primary transfer target Ben Chilwell from Leicester. He does however have a cunning back-up plan.
James Milner’s value to Liverpool may have been questioned by some of the club’s snootier fans, but their vice-captain’s ability to slot in anywhere and perform competently at the very least, surely makes him one of the very best free transfers of recent times.
Not to mention the former Leeds youth scored seven times last season, was the leading English assister in the Premier League and would probably don the gloves if Klopp required it. That may be stretching his adaptability a little too far, but left-back should not be a big problem at all.
According to the Liverpool Echo, the Reds’ gaffer is giving serious thought to transforming Milner into an emergency left-back for the upcoming campaign. This isn’t that crazy at all, it could even prove to be a masterstroke.
It doesn’t mean that Klopp should stop targeting specialist left-backs with over a month to go until the transfer window officially shuts, as Moreno has shown himself to be a defensive weak link at various times and there must be better out there than the Spaniard.
Jon Flanagan is the other obvious option within the squad, though rumours he could be loaned out to Burnley show Klopp doesn’t rate him as highly as perhaps Brendan Rodgers’ did, albeit pre-injury.
But Milner’s own performances covering the left-sided defensive berth on a couple of occasions last season hint that he may even do a better job.
When Liverpool’s first choice left-back had to bow out of the Capital One Cup final after 70 minutes, back went the two-time Premier League winner and suddenly he became his side’s best attacking avenue, providing overlapping runs and dangerous crosses.
Milner is defensively diligent enough to operate there. He’s a tenacious tackler – he averages 2.5 per game in the league – while he’s an astute reader of the game too with an unparalleled work rate.
Although this development may not be overtly welcomed by a player who left Manchester City primarily to be played in central midfield, the clogging up of those positions is another thing to factor into the equation.
Klopp’s current midfield stable includes Emre Can, Lucas, Jordan Henderson, Kevin Stewart, Georginio Wijnaldum, Marko Grujic and Philippe Coutinho, who are all in direct competition to the 61-cap England international.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.