James Milner took a pay cut to stay at Liverpool and signed a one-year extension, even though other teams in the Premier League and Europe offered him more money or more playing time.
It might be one of the most important deals Liverpool makes all summer.
Milner, Jurgen Klopp, and the Anfield plan all wanted to keep up a great relationship that Klopp thinks is the key to everything good that Liverpool has done in recent years.
Milner might not be the big-name signing that will make Liverpool as good as Manchester City, the team they hate the most in the Premier League. Sadio Mane has been talking about leaving the club, and Mo Salah’s contract offer is still hanging over the club. This puts Liverpool at a crossroads. In his first summer as the club’s director of sports, Julian Ward will be put to the test.
But buying and selling well aren’t the only reasons why Klopp’s Liverpool has been so strong in recent years. The club moves forward because it has a good atmosphere in the locker room, and Milner is at the center of that.
In the last few weeks of the season, when the Reds were fighting on four fronts, they needed their bench players to be ready to step in and play at the same level as Salah. In practice, this meant that the players who stayed at Melwood during Champions League weeks had to train and prepare at the same level as those who were sure to play.
Milner played a big role in that, setting the standards for what he called the best locker room he’d ever been in.
“A lot is said about James’s ability to lead and his influence in the locker room,” Klopp said, praising the “importance” of Milner’s decision to stay.
“Of course, that’s fair and right, but no one should forget how good he is on the field, where he continues to play so well that we couldn’t afford to lose him.
“His professionalism is the standard for any athlete, and that’s why, with his skills and attitude, he sets the tone for this team.”
People who know Milner think that he would do well as a manager. He seems like the best choice because he knows how the game works and is a natural leader of men.
Five players, including Salah, Mane, Roberto Firmino, Naby Keita, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, are about to enter the last year of their current contracts.
Salah’s talks have been going on for a long time, but Bayern Munich is interested in Mane, another forward.
Liverpool won’t let the 30-year-old Senegalese player who scored 23 goals this season leave for less than £25 million, as long as they have a good replacement ready.