Liverpool legend and now-Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness has hailed Manchester City midfielder James Milner as a ‘manager’s dream’ ahead of the club’s Champions League match at CSKA Moscow.
Signed from Aston Villa in August 2010 for around £26 million, Milner has made over 150 appearances for the Blues over the past four campaigns, but earned just 12 starts last term under the incoming Manuel Pellegrini.
Having entered the final season of his contract, his future with the Blues had been the subject of much speculation in recent months, but the England international has since experienced an extended run in the line-up in the absence of the injured Samir Nasri, starting the last five Premier League games.
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Rumoured to be on the verge of sealing a new long-term deal at the Etihad, Souness believes that the 28-year-old’s underrated qualities are vital to Pellegrini’s side, and stresses that Tuesday's Group D clash against the Russian champions is one in which he cannot be left on the bench like last time out against Roma.
‘In the draw with Roma they ended up chasing the game because they were too easy to play against at the start,’ he wrote in his Sky Sports column.
‘The Italian side turned up expecting a really difficult game and in the first half it was quite easy for them. They didn’t look particularly solid until James Milner came on at half-time to replace Jesus Navas.
‘We’ve consistently seen Pellegrini play two strikers as well as Navas. That’s great if you’re bossing a game, but until you get yourself into that position he doesn’t do enough in terms of working as a proper midfield player.
‘In contrast, Milner has quickly propelled himself into becoming one of the first names on the team sheet, alongside the likes of David Silva, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero. He has turned out to be a proper midfield player and a manager’s dream and can give you that solidity in midfield.’