THE BLOG
02/06/2015 13:19 BST | Updated 02/06/2016 06:59 BST

James Milner: Great for Manchester City, Good for Anyone Else

He is the type of player the club need if they want to be successful. Sure, he's not the quickest, nor the most skilful, nor is he ever likely to finish high up the goalscoring charts, but in a squad packed full of talent and in a team bursting with expensive and flashy recruits, the simple truth is that City are better with Milner in the side.

If you listen to people who watch James Milner every week for Manchester City, they will tell you what an excellent player he is.

They will tell you to ignore his critics, to ignore those who only catch a glimpse of him on Match of the Day and deride him for a supposed lack of ability. They will tell you to ignore those observers who focus purely on Milner's fitness and those who pigeonhole him as a willing workhorse but nothing more. They will tell you to ignore claims that City only want to keep him at the club because of his nationality.

And they would be right on all counts because, unfashionable a view as it may seem in the ever-increasingly tribal nature of football, Milner is great for City.

He is the type of player the club need if they want to be successful. Sure, he's not the quickest, nor the most skilful, nor is he ever likely to finish high up the goalscoring charts, but in a squad packed full of talent and in a team bursting with expensive and flashy recruits, the simple truth is that City are better with Milner in the side.

There is a strange tendency from those outside the club to frown upon his responsibility in tracking back and to dismiss his team ethic when supporting his defenders. Perhaps he's old-fashioned in that regard, but Milner's qualities should not be overlooked just because he tends to avoid the limelight.

And yet it looks like he's on his way out. That is through no lack of effort on behalf of the club, who have offered him more money than he is currently on, but Milner himself seems to want to feature more often and, crucially, more often in his preferred position, central midfield.

As far as I'm concerned, that's a mistake.

Milner is great for City, but I believe he'd only be good for another club.

If that seems a strange, almost bitter statement to make about a player who is leaving the club, it is not meant in that way at all.

When Milner's contribution to City is analysed, it's clear where his strengths lie. He is not the player to dominate possession and dictate the tempo of the game, but the one who reacts to those that do.

So much of City's play is based on controlling proceedings, of being on the ball and prodding for openings as the opposition sit back. Eyes turn towards the likes of David Silva, Yaya Touré and Samir Nasri to unlock the defensive door. They prompt attacks, they demand the ball and create chances, and they can inject ingenuity to an insipid performance, but they cannot do it on their own.

They need options. They need people to make angles and to stretch defences and to open up gaps. Silva, Touré and Nasri have bundles of ability, but they want the ball to feet. For periods of last season, City were predictable and one-paced. They were static. That is where Milner comes in.

The intelligence of his movement is what is so impressive on a weekly basis. He is a constant whir, darting around, effervescent and dynamic. When City's midfielders look to play a forward pass, Milner is the one who constantly provides the option. He is exactly what Silva needs. He is exactly what City need.

The talk now is that he'll move to Liverpool. With a Steven Gerrard-sized hole in the centre of midfield, he can clearly see an opening there - and it would make logistical sense for Milner in terms of staying put in the North West.

Nevertheless, everything we have seen from him at City suggests he is better as a reactive outlet.

He would be a decent signing for Liverpool, adding stability and energy to their core, but he is not the type of player to control the game and provide a spark from a central berth. There are genuine questions about how much of an impact he can have at the top level when the onus is on him to create for others.

He has not yet announced his plans for the future and he could, of course, still turn around and say he fancies staying in Manchester, but that looks increasingly unlikely.

If he were to leave he would be sorely missed, and he deserves to be remembered as a great player who contributed hugely to the club's golden period. Whether he replicates that impact elsewhere remains to be seen.