Liverpool's James Milner: "I'll play at left-back if that's what the team needs"
Liverpool midfielder James Milner has played a big part in the club's recent success because he has been consistent and versatile enough to switch positions.
James Milner admits that he might have considered leaving Liverpool during Jürgen Klopp's first full season at the club when he was asked to play out of position. The 34-year-old left Manchester City in 2015 to play more regularly in centre midfield yet spent a lot of the 2016-17 campaign filling in at left-back before Andy Robertson was brought in.
Milner's experience, consistency and influence on the younger players has aided Liverpool in the past few seasons and he signed a new deal in December that runs through to 2022. But the former England international could have pushed for a move away three years ago and says it took time to adapt to Klopp's demands on the training pitch.
Milner comes to Liverpool's defence
On moving to left-back, he told Sky Sports: "It was what the manager needed at the time. There's always going to be positions you prefer but you do what's needed for the team. I suppose at that point I could have turned around and said, 'No I don't want to do that, I want to leave'. He came to ask me to do it in pre-season and my mindset was, 'Okay, how can I be the best I can be in that position?' and I started to learn the role. A few of the boys were a bit surprised when we set up at pre-season training the next day and I was at left-back, but that was part of the fun."
Asked about Klopp's intense training sessions, Milner added: "We had to adapt to that - there were a lot of injuries early on. People were saying, 'You can't do that!' You could, you just had to get used to it. Straight away you saw the tempo and the intensity in that first game at Spurs. It was ridiculous really, it wasn't like we played at a slow tempo under Brendan [Rodgers]. That journey started then with the manager's methods and how he wanted us to play. You saw it come in bit by bit. One week the quality would be there and the next week we would be miles off it. That was a process again; the consistency started to come in and, eventually, learning how to win ugly and become a more rounded team."
More silverware at Anfield
Milner has been restricted to just eight league starts this season, however, and was linked with a move back to boyhood club Leeds United. The Yorkshire club are on course to earn promotion to the top flight after a 16-year absence and Milner has not ruled out returning at some stage in the future. "You never know in football what's around the corner, but I just want to contribute and win as many trophies as I can for Liverpool and add to the great history here," he said. "I'm biased, but I think the Premier League will be a better place for Leeds in it, and it will be weird to play against them next season."
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