Jürgen Klopp on James Milner: 'The role model, a pure example'
Jürgen Klopp paid a special tribute to James Milner as he discussed the No.7's stellar Liverpool career.
Milner will depart Merseyside this summer after playing a vital role in helping lift seven honours – including the Champions League and Premier League – during his spell as a Red.
He made 332 appearances and scored 26 goals for the club, proving a huge success both on and off the pitch, since making the switch to Liverpool in the summer of 2015.
Klopp recently sat down to reflect on Milner's impact, his all-round influence, what he will miss about the vice-captain and more exclusively with Liverpoolfc.com.
Read on for the interview below…
A tribute to James Milner
On managing Milner...
A pleasure and a challenge. In the same moment [it] means a pleasure because of his exceptional attitude, really. I think for a lot of experienced players you use from time to time the word 'role model'. But Millie is the role model, how he puts himself pretty much in place to be every day 100 per cent ready. It's a pure example; absolutely outstanding. [It was] a challenge because especially in the beginning everything was alright when he was starting, but when he didn't start then that was a bit tricky. I never saw a bigger mood change in an instant! Similar to Lucas Leiva, I would say. But he played a lot of games so he didn't have that problem now too often, but no, really, really, really good.
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On his influence around the club and inside the dressing room...
I think Millie wants to be, [in the] first place, he wants to be seen as a football player and that's rightly so, because he played 9,000 games or so, that's how it feels! That was the biggest impact he had; on the pitch. But around, and some of these things I obviously never saw, but I think a lot of things didn't even come up to my office just because Millie sorted it beforehand, which is really good. I think it's easy for the other players to look up to him because of the way he is, of course, because of the way he behaves and treats everybody. So, speaks nearly fluently Spanish, [which] means he was always a super-important fixed point for the Spanish-speaking players when they came in.
[He] set the rules, set the standards [and] made sure that we all keep them. This morning we had a conversation, because yesterday there was a situation in training that Trent wanted to win the ball. Millie went down and stayed down and it's a normal reaction for us as the refs – the coaches; OK, foul. Trent went completely mad: 'There was no foul, there was no foul!' And this morning we spoke about it and he said when Millie is going down, everybody thinks it's a foul, because when he stays down [it must be]; number one. Number two; if you don't whistle, Millie gets angry, and nobody wants to have that. So, it's a perfect situation for Millie. If he goes down, it will be definitely a free-kick in training, in official games it's obviously slightly different.
On his favourite Milner moments...
There's not one James Milner moment; it's a James Milner seven-and-a-half years. That's really how it is. From the first moment for me, he was a super-important player reference point... when you have a meeting and you look at Millie's eyes and he's not shaking his head, you know you're on the right way. So, let's go. Everything was great. I said [it] a couple of times [that] nothing would have happened here, of all the good things, would not have happened without Millie because he kept it always going until now. From the player who was super-angry when he didn't play, to the player when he did play, the way he pushed the whole dressing room before a game is absolutely second to none. Absolutely. I find a lot of things I say in a meeting before, I realise he's repeating, just mixing up with some words which are obviously not appropriate in front of a camera, but even I could go out and play after Millie's dressing room talks; absolutely outstanding.
On the first word that comes to mind when he thinks of Milner...