James Milner‘s boyhood club, Leeds United, appear set for promotion to the Premier League next season, with Liverpool’s No. 7 prepared for a “weird” reunion.
Milner signed a new two-and-a-half-year contract with the Reds in December, which ties him to the club until 2022, by which point he will have celebrated his 36th birthday.
It came as something of a surprise that Liverpool sanctioned such an extension, but Milner is no normal athlete and though his influence is waning on the pitch, he can still be expected to contribute at an advanced age.
Agreeing to a new deal is no guarantee he will stay on Merseyside until then, of course, and as he edges towards retirement the temptation of a return to Leeds will grow.
But speaking to Sky Sports, with his former club top of the Championship and six points clear of third with six games to play, Milner suggested his plan was to stay with Liverpool next season, but said “you never know” about the future.
“You never know in football, what’s around the corner, but I just want to contribute and win as many trophies as I can for Liverpool and add to the great history here,” he insisted.
“I’m biased, but I think the Premier League will be a better place for Leeds in it, and it will be weird to play against them next season.
“It seems a long time ago since I pulled on that shirt, you look back at photos and see how big the shirts were back then.
“Plenty has changed since then, unfortunately I was part of the team that got relegated and they haven’t come back and recovered just yet.
“It would be great to see them back next season and their fans are incredible as well.”
Milner has remained a valuable asset for Klopp as he reaches his mid-30s, though his minutes have decreased this season, playing just 1,584 across all competitions so far and a mere 802 over 19 appearances in the Premier League.
He has started 17 of his 34 outings, including two in the League Cup and one in the FA Cup, largely utilised as an experienced squad option.
Interestingly, The Athletic note that despite his incredible fitness record, “his availability has dropped from 98 percent in 2017/18, to 90 percent last season, to just 75 percent this season.”
That is not to suggest that Liverpool should part ways with Milner at the end of the season, of course, and it appears there is no plan to do so.
But it may highlight that if he does intend to rejoin Leeds, it may need to be sooner rather than later if he is hoping to play a substantial role at Elland Road.
This may be reading between the lines, but it could be that Milner is waiting for Leeds to prove they have “recovered”—possibly meaning consolidating their place in the Premier League—before he could consider leaving Liverpool.