Liverpool midfielder James Milner looks set to finally depart the club this summer, after eight stellar years of service.
Milner had looked ready to leave 12 months ago but eventually ended up signing a one-year contract extension. Now, after a difficult year for the Reds, journalist Ben Jacobs has suggested that Liverpool is prepared to let the veteran leave.
“From Milner’s point of view, he’d like to extend at Liverpool. But from Liverpool’s perspective, they’ve always been under the impression that this is his last season at Anfield,” Jacobs told Give Me Sport.
“It’s not because they don’t value him as a squad player and a dressing room influence. It’s just ultimately time for the player and club to part way and that’s been the Liverpool perspective.”
However, Jacobs went on to add that the door has not been completely closed on Milner. The journalist claimed that if the vice-captain can prove himself once more over the last 10 games of the season, he could yet earn an unlikely extension.
“Now, if they see anything in the last few games in terms of leadership and impact in their push for Champions League football to change that, then you can always potentially get a twist,” he said. “But, in essence, nothing has changed with Milner. He would love another year.”
Time to make a change
Ask any random Liverpool fan for their views on this topic and you’ll likely get an even split. Some will see the value in continuing to keep Milner around. Whereas others will snort at the idea of a ninth year at Anfield for the Yorkshireman. In truth, there is merit to both positions.
On the one hand, the 37-year-old is still a big factor for the Reds in the dressing room. Forever the pace-setter and standard bearer, it would be a big culture shock to lose Milner’s influence.
The fact that he’s played over 30 times this season also shows that he’s still relatively important on the pitch, too. As former teammate Steven Taylor says, his longevity is ‘amazing.’ Milner has continued to get games throughout his stay at the club.
But on the other hand, would it be such a bad thing to change the dressing room culture right now? Liverpool’s cycle of success with Milner as a big voice has come to an end. Now feels like the right time to allow new voices to fill that void.
And as for his influence on the pitch, well, he simply shouldn’t be needed quite so much. With new midfielders set to come to the club this summer, hopefully, the need to start Milner away at the Santiago Bernabeu, for example, will be no more.
In short, whatever the club decides here, they’re likely to upset a portion of the fan base. But in our view, it’s time for the old stalwart to move on. In reality, that time probably came a year ago. If he does end up staying though, we won’t be complaining either – as long as his playing role is lessened. Tough one!