By 90Min
June 25, 2019

Former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has heaped praise on Liverpool stalwart James Milner, hailing the versatile midfielder as 'one of the best' while surprisingly downplaying the importance of stars like Lionel Messi and Neymar.

Since arriving at Anfield in 2015, Milner has become a firm fan favourite for his work rate and unselfishness and was a key member of the Reds' Champions League success in 2018/19.

His contribution has won a surprise admirer in former United and Netherlands manager Van Gaal, who used the 33-year-old to highlight the importance of players who fight for the team than those who play as individuals.

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When questioned by El Pais, the Dutchman seemed to dismiss many of the traditionally considered best individual players in the world, before talking up those who play for the team.

He is quoted as saying: "Look at Barcelona, how many Champions League’s have they won with what they say is the best player in the world?


"Look at Neymar at PSG. How many Champions League trophies won? Neymar and Messi, I like them as individual players, not as team players."

"I believe that in collective games there is nothing more important than the team player."

And when asked who he believed was the most impressive team player was, he replied: "One of the best is James Milner, in the final of the Champions League he played as a defender and as a midfielder. It's great that he can offer that at 33."

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Van Gaal was also complimentary towards a number of other stars crucial to Liverpool's recent resurgence and European success, adding: "And the forwards? Everyone plays for the team.

"Salah, Firmino and Mane work very hard in defence because Klopp wants to press." 

Yet, despite getting his players to buy into his preferred style, Van Gaal also believes the Reds' manager has learned to adapt his methods to be pragmatic.

"Until a few months ago he saw the light: he understood that pressing is not always the right thing to do.

"Depends on the conditions. His Dortmund was more offensive than his Liverpool, where he learned that sometimes you have to fold a little bit, collect your lines and counter-attack.

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"That is good for Salah, Mane and Firmino because they are very quick to take advantage of the spaces behind the rival defence."

Using the 4-0 semi-final thrashing of Barca as an example once more, he suggested this was something the Spanish champions and Messi could learn from.

"Barça suffered it. I think Messi should ask himself how it is possible that he has not won a Champions League for so long."

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