Jordan Henderson has admitted his job as Liverpool captain would have been impossible without the influence of James Milner in a heartfelt tribute to the departing club icon.
The 37-year-old leaves the Anfield as a free agent, eight years after joining on a free transfer from Manchester City and has been tipped to join Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton.
To mark the departure of the Premier League’s third-highest appearance maker, a host of Liverpool players and Jurgen Klopp recounted touching anecdotes about the former England international in a video released by the club on Wednesday.
With several stressing Milner’s technical ability on the pitch, while others spoke of his ruthless, often hilariously punitive, policing of the dressing room.
‘I couldn’t have led the team like I have done without him,’ Henderson said. ‘It was sort of good cop bad cop a lot of the time.
‘He’d say I was too soft and he had to be the one that was coming down on players but on the pitch, it was probably roles reversed.
‘It helped me so much to have him next to me and always be there for me when needed. And for me, I’ll probably miss him the most out of everyone.’
Milner’s consistency and versatility made him crucial to Jurgen Klopp as he sought to fashion the ailing side in his image during the 2015/16 season.
The midfielder’s commitment to the team was on full display during the 2016/17 season when, short of options in the squad, Klopp tasked Milner with playing at left-back for the entirety of the campaign.
The former Newcastle man proved to be more than up to the assignment, starting 36 of 38 games in the Premier League as the Reds secured a top-four finish in Klopp’s first full season.
Andrew Robertson, who was signed from Hull City at the end of that season to fill the void at full-back, retold an account which revealed a funnier side of the man.
‘I won’t miss Millie’s animal noises,’ the Scottish captain said. ‘There was always a part of pre-season where we had to share a room with somebody.
‘He was playing this stupid game before he went to bed. You know you can record your sleep? So he put that on and thought it would be funny to see if I say anything.
‘And yeah, because he was playing that stupid animal game with all the noises, I ended up making a cow noise in the middle of my sleep. I’ve never lived it down.’
Liverpool assistant Pep Lijnders admitted he had big respect for Milner as he revealed the midfielder studies Spanish and the piano away from the field.
Many fans got a window into Milner’s sense of humour thanks to his infamous Twitter account which showcased his dry wit. What fans couldn’t observe, though they could certainly speculate, was his military-like command of the dressing room.
Virgil Van Dijk confessed to being fined on a few occasions for using his phone in the treatment room, while Alexander-Arnold said he was docked pay even when he was technically on time.
‘It’s not even running late,’ he said. ‘It’s just on the minute is late on Millie’s clock.’
Jurgen Klopp will have his work cut out in finding a player who can fill the dressing room void Milner is sure to leave. The German was keen to talk up the departing midfielder’s presence on the pitch but saved a special mention for his motivational abilities.
Klopp said: ‘When he didn’t play the way he pushed the whole dressing room before a game is absolutely second to none.
‘And I find a lot of things I said in the meeting before, he’s repeating just mixing it up with some words that are obviously not appropriate in front of a camera.’
Milner leaves Liverpool with an impressive trophy haul, after the club won the Premier, League, Champions League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and World Club Cup during his time at Anfield.