James Milner’s qualities fly so far under the radar in the world of football that it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if his contract expired this summer, he left Manchester City and drifted off to some unknown rural town to shear sheep with the same commitment he once displayed on the wing without anyone noticing.
That there is a fair amount of interest in his services should he become a free-agent at the end of the season is a reassuring doff of the cap to the traditional English pro, one who values hard-running and a good final ball over fancy step overs and a constant reddening of the full-back’s thighs with their crosses.
With that said, though, just how many of these quintessentially English footballers can one side cope with?
Success in any form of the game comes in finding a balance between imagination and industry. Too many show ponies and you’re an open door waiting to be robbed, but too many nuts-and-bolts players and you’re nothing but a dull chunk of metal.
As Liverpool weigh up a move for Milner this summer, opposing the likes of Arsenal and Valencia for the international’s signature, they would do well to ponder this problem a while.
Already in possession of one of the game’s premier workhorses in Jordan Henderson, Brendan Rodgers may actually puff his cheeks in relief should the La Liga side nip ahead of the 11/2 top-four chasers to land the Man City winger.
What has been clear during the Northern Irishman’s tenure at Anfield is that he isn’t one to pay too much attention to efficiency on the field of play.
Pace, creativity, finesse and technique are all ranked far higher by the former Swansea boss than the attributes Milner (and Henderson) is renowned for.
Rickie Lambert’s struggles with the club should be enough proof that working with players who fail to fit that bill isn’t one of Rodgers’ strengths.
With that in mind, it’s likely that as the one-time Leeds United wonderkid passes him by, Rodgers will view it as a blessing in disguise, as should the rest of the club.
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