James Milner's role in Liverpool's success has been understated and he has retired internationally, but the industry and end product he brings would be ideal for England in Russia this summer.

By 90Min
May 09, 2018

Following the news that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will miss the FIFA World Cup this summer after sustaining a knee ligament injury in Liverpool's Champions League semifinal, many people have pondered who could replace him for England in Russia.

With a lack of drive and creativity within Gareth Southgate's midfield being routinely criticized, the former Arsenal man's impressive form for Jurgen Klopp's side suggested he could be the man to provide that, although now with his injury, the answer to England's problem could be a teammate of Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Despite calling time on his international career two months after Euro 2016, the form of James Milner this season has lead to many calling for Southgate to persuade the Yorkshireman out of retirement, and it's easy to see why. 

There are few players that epitomize their manager's style of football more than Milner does for the charismatic German. Marrying both industry with end product, while many have chosen to focus on the former throughout the majority of his career, it's the latter this season that has been turning heads.

Already making more appearances for the Reds in all competitions this season (46) than in the previous two campaigns, Milner is only two assists shy of equaling his best return for the Anfield side (14 in the 2015/16 season). It's where the majority of his assists have come this season as to why many believe Southgate should persuade Milner out of international retirement. 

Setting a record in the UEFA Champions League this season of nine assists with one game still to go against Real Madrid in the final later this month, Milner's unassuming demeanor is arguably what makes this statistic so spectacular; making the correlation between Liverpool's run to Kiev and his assist record more than just a happy coincidence. 

His vigor and energy won the ball back off Ilkay Gundogen, which led to Oxlade-Chamberlain's stunning second in the first leg of their 3-0 quarterfinal win against Manchester City. While his corner provided Roberto Firmino's second of the game in their 5-2 first leg win against AS Roma the following round, all while operating at the heart of Liverpool's midfield. 

Compared with the other central midfielders named in Southgate's recent England squad for friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy in March, Tottenham's Dele Alli was the only player who has record more assists than Milner this season, which in an era that creative English central midfielders are hard to come by, is something that shouldn't be overlooked.

Now seeming to be at home as a central midfielder after his season-long stint as Liverpool's first choice left back the year before, Milner has rightfully earned all the acclaim he has received for his performances. Pundits such as Jamie Redknapp now calling for the former Aston Villa and Manchester City man to end his international hiatus.

The decision to come out of international retirement, however, ultimately rests in the hands of Milner. Which is by no means a simple decision for him to don the white of the Three Lions once more, as one of the reasons behind his excellent form for Liverpool this season is due to him concentrating solely on his club football.

With Southgate naming a 35-man provisional squad by May 14–before whittling it down to 23 by June 4–the experience and quality that Milner would provide England in Russia is undeniable, if not essential, especially considering the limited options for Southgate to select from.

In a season that could culminate in a Champions League winners' medal for Liverpool that few would've predicted at the beginning of the season, even fewer would've been calling for Milner to be included in the England squad this summer, which is–in truth–a testament to the type of player he is; boring yet brilliant. 

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