Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp seems to have pulled off a masterstroke by playing veteran midfielder James Milner at left-back.
The International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) Football observatory have recently released lists of the best players in their positions from the top five European leagues. They have made two lists for each position, one for full internationals and one for those yet to play for their national teams.
The usual suspects in Cristiano Ronaldo (Forward), Manuel Neuer (Goalkeeper), Kevin de Bruyne (Attacking Midfielder) and Thiago Alcantara (Defensive Midfielder) take up top spots in their respective positions, while Mats Hummels has been rated as the best center-back. However, the list for best full-back has thrown up a huge surprise.
Juventus full-back Alex Sandro takes up top spot on the list, but just behind him is none other than Liverpool’s makeshift defender James Milner. The 31-year-old has the same rating as Bayern Munich’s David Alaba. He is also ahead of the likes of Danny Rose, Filipe Luis and Philipp Lahm.
The only other Premier League player in the top ten list of best full international full-backs is Manchester United winger turned right-back Antonio Valencia. Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso is also rated highly, topping the list for best non full international full-back.
Milner has been absolutely superb playing at full-back for Liverpool, despite spending the vast majority of his career as a midfielder. Klopp was forced to turn to the Englishman after the Reds failed to sign a specialist during the transfer window.
Error prone Spaniard Alberto Moreno had to be dropped, and Milner seized the opportunity with both feet. The 31-year-old has clocked 1559 minutes in 18 Premier League appearances for the Reds, scoring five goals and making two assists.
There were some expectations when Klopp signed Milner on a free transfer from Manchester City in the summer of 2015. However the Englishman has surpassed them in unprecedented fashion, as he has become one of the best full-backs in Europe this season.
It’s difficult to describe Milner as a full-back even now, but the way things are going, he might make more of an impact in this position than he has done as a midfielder so far in a storied career.