Jurgen Klopp hails ‘role model’ James Milner as Liverpool advance
Jurgen Klopp has hailed ‘role model’ James Milner after Liverpool kept up their quadruple challenge with a 1-0 Premier League win at Newcastle.
The 36-year-old former Magpie, who made his senior debut for Leeds nearly 20 years ago, was one of five men drafted into Klopp’s much-changed starting line-up for a vital league game taken sandwiched between the two legs of the Champions League. semi-final clash with Villarreal, and produced a fine individual performance.
When asked if he had met a fitter 36-year-old, Klopp replied with a smile: “No, but it would be interesting to watch Luka Modric. Isn’t he 36 too It was obviously a good generation.
“No, it’s hard to be in better shape than Milly. It’s a model. I told him, I can tell the whole world – nothing we’ve achieved in the last few years would have happened without James Milner, it’s as simple as that.
“Whether he’s on the pitch or not, he set standards in a way that few can set, and that educated us all.”
If Milner excelled at St James’ Park, so did his teammates as they extended their league unbeaten run to 15 games to keep the pressure on Manchester City through Naby Keita’s 19th-minute strike.
They probably should have won even more comfortably, but Klopp was more than happy with a controlled display following Wednesday night’s 2-0 win over Villarreal at Anfield.
The German said: “It was incredibly difficult for the boys today, to be honest, that’s clear. We played two and a half days ago.
“Coming here, a fit team, six home wins in a row, great weather, everyone in good spirits, pretty much everything was ready for another home win.
“The only group that wanted to avoid that was my players. It was an exceptional game of football, to be honest. Under the circumstances, it was a first-class performance.
However, seconds after the final whistle, Klopp was already turning his attention to Tuesday night’s trip to Spain.
When asked how excited he was about what lay ahead, he insisted he could only think about the next game and added: “I’m not smart enough to try to do two things at the same time.
“We finished the game and our analyst was in the dressing room and I asked him: ‘How are Villarreal playing?’ They’re also playing now – they were down 2-1, made some changes – so that’s our life.
For number opposite Eddie Howe there was an indication of just how far his rejuvenated side need to go to reach the level they want after their hopes of a seventh straight league win at home dissolved in the face of scrutiny strict.
Howe said: “I would say there has been progress. I think we have improved in many aspects of our game, but I think it also shows that there is a gap that we need to fill compared to the top teams.
“But I’m not surprised by that – I don’t think anyone else is. We have work to do. The biggest disappointment today is probably individual, I don’t think we really excelled.
“I thought the team was fine, we were in the game until the end, but to win these games you probably need six or seven players at their peak, and that wasn’t there. It was close, but it wasn’t close enough.