Football News

Louis van Gaal: ‘Football’s best team player? James Milner is fantastic for Liverpool’

By William Eldridge

Published: 17:40, 25 June 2019

Liverpool midfielder James Milner is one of football’s “best team players”, according to former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal.

The 33-year-old played a major role in the Reds’ success during the 2018/19 season as they triumphed in Europe and narrowly missed out on the Premier League title to Manchester City.

The importance of Milner: Five things to know…

  1. Milner made 45 appearances for Liverpool in all competitions last season.
  2. The majority of his starts came from central midfield, but he also played at full-back and left midfield.
  3. The former Man City player also showcased his worth from the penalty spot, converting three Premier League spot-kicks and two in the Champions League.
  4. Only five Liverpool players had more touches on the ball than Milner last season in the Premier League (1915).
  5. Milner’s contract expires at the end of the 2019/20 season.

Former United manager Van Gaal, whose philosophy was built on the collective rather than the importance of individuals, is adamant team players can be the difference between success and failure.

Perhaps to the annoyance of Red Devil supporters, the Dutchman listed current Merseyside favourite Milner among the very top versatile players of the current era.

“One of the best is James Milner,” Van Gaal told El Pais.

“In the Champions final, he played as a defender and midfielder. It’s fantastic that you can offer that at 33.”

In fact, Van Gaal is clearly an admirer of Jurgen Klopp’s side, who came close to ending their 29-year wait for a league title, only to eventually lose out to Pep Guardiola’s side.

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The Dutchman heaped further praise on Liverpool’s attackers – as well as Klopp – by complimenting the high-pressure style of play that is strongly associated with the Anfield side.

Van Gaal continued: “Everyone plays for the team. [Mohamed] Salah, [Roberto] Firmino and [Sadio] Mane work very hard in defence because Klopp wants to press. A few months ago he saw the light.

“He understood that pressing is not always the right thing to do. It depends on the conditions. His Dortmund was more offensive than his Liverpool, where he learned that sometimes you have to retreat a little bit, put your lines together and counter-attack.

“That’s good for Salah, Mane and Firmino because they’re very quick to take advantage of the spaces at the back of the opposing defence. Barca suffered from it. I think Messi should wonder how it is possible to take so long without winning a Champions League.”