Amongst the world class names of David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli there is a £24 million man who is beginning to show why he is so highly regarded by the hierarchy at Manchester City.
At 25 years old, a regular for his country and now cementing his place at club level alongside stellar names, James Milner is the perfect modern professional footballer and the talent that was evident when he was a youngster at Leeds United is now coming to fruition.
Having represented his country on 23 occasions and with an FA Cup Winner’s medal to his name, Milner is producing the best football of his career in a Manchester City side that has won 11 of its last 12 Premier League games.
After enduring a difficult first season with the Blues, his inconsistent form and manager Roberto Mancini’s cautious tactical approach Milner was unable to flourish – playing in his least favoured position of winger when an opportunity to play did arise – but now he’s beginning to find his feet.
With such a hefty price tag it was inevitably going to put the young man from Leeds under intense pressure, pressure it appeared he may not be able to handle. He had to adapt from being the heartbeat of a solid Aston Villa side to being a part of big and talented squad – an important part nonetheless.
Milner is described as a tenacious, hard-working player, the type every successful team needs. He may not have the silky skills of Spanish magician David Silva, but his stamina, drive and determination combined with a footballing brain that not many credit him for, make him a key member of Mancini’s side that have broken records with the incredible start they have made this season.
There have been signs too that he is improving as a player, against Villarreal in the Champions League with a minute left of the game it was Milner’s driving run that resulted in Zabaleta crossing for fellow countryman Sergio Aguero. The James Milner of old may well have hoofed the ball forward, inevitably resulting in City losing possession. Yet, with so little time left in the game and the Blues desperate for a goal in order to keep their Champions League dream alive, his determination and skill created a goal securing a vital win.
Part of his success this season could well be due to the fact that he has accepted his role in the team. With City competing in four competitions (and ambitious enough to want to win them all) Mancini has adopted a strict rotation policy and the players are aware that they cannot play in every game – shown by the fact that David Silva was on the bench against Newcastle United.
Milner’s performances recently have been nothing short of fantastic and he looks like he belongs in this team. The FA Cup win brought the players closer together as would be expected; imagine what winning the Premier League would do. If that did happen one thing’s for sure, it would be such an achievement that even the tee-total James Milner may be tempted to have a sip of champagne.