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James Milner's Perfect XI: "Gerrard was the best all-round footballer I’ve ever played with"

James Milner's Perfect XI
(Image credit: Getty Images)

James Milner has made over 800 appearances across a career that started at Leeds when he was just 16 years old, and is still going strong 20 years later. In that time, he's played for Newcastle, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Liverpool, picking up a raft of trophies along the way, including three Premier Leagues, two League Cups, an FA Cup and a Champions League.

FourFourTwo sat down with him to find out who would make the best XI of his team-mates...

James Milner's Perfect XI first appeared in the January 2020 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. Subscribe today and get 13 issues a year delivered straight to your door (opens in new tab).

James Milner's Perfect XI

(Image credit: Getty Images)

James Milner's Perfect XI – Goalkeeper: Alisson Becker

“Nigel Martyn at Leeds was certainly the best shot-stopper I played with, and Joe Hart was brilliant at Manchester City. But Alisson has got it all. Coming into a new squad and a new country isn’t easy, but he made us a better team. He’s a bit too good looking, though. We all avoid being pictured next to him!”  

Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold

“Gary Kelly, Luke Young, Micah Richards, Glen Johnson: all great right-backs, but
I see Trent becoming a great footballer and that’s why he gets the nod over the other four. That said, what he’s already achieved is so impressive.”

Centre-back: Jonathan Woodgate

"Woody was exceptional at Leeds and so unlucky with injuries, but before that we all thought he was a superstar. Put it this way: I’m leaving both Rio Ferdinand and Vincent Kompany out of my side, which shows just how much I thought of him.” 

Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk

“He’s some player; great with the ball at his feet and commanding. It’s a surprise when you see the big man having to get out of second gear. He’s got the deepest voice I’ve ever heard, but when you hear it you know everything’s going to be OK.”  

Left-back: Ashley Cole

“A world-class full-back. I played with him for England, and against him, and he’d attack and defend all day long. Ashley was the fittest footballer around and always did the job that was expected of him.”

Centre-midfield: David SIlva

“With him, it was always about the weight of a pass and spotting things nobody else could. But he also loved a tackle! David could decide a game on his own with three assists, but he’d come off buzzing if he won the ball. ‘Did you see my tackle?!’ he’d say afterwards. He was so funny.”  

Centre-midfield: Steven Gerrard

“The best all-round footballer I’ve ever played with: left foot, right foot, heading, shooting, defending. It’s scary to think about it, as you could have played him anywhere and he would have excelled.”  

Centre-midfield: Frank Lampard

 “The number of goals that Frank scored from midfield gets him into this team – we’d find a way to make him and Stevie work together! I can tell that Lamps will do well as a coach, because his attitude as a player was always second to none.”

Right-forward: Roberto Firmino

"The lowest-maintenance footballer I’ve ever known. He simply works really hard, smiles and does everything that’s asked of him. His work-rate without the ball is something else, but his ability with the ball at his feet gets him into my line-up.”  

Centre-forward: Alan Shearer

“Alan lived to score goals and was the best at it. When you think about all the great players who have followed him since he retired and yet he still has the Premier League goals record, then you appreciate how exceptional he was.”  

Left-forward: Sergio Aguero

“I remember the ball falling to Sergio in injury time against QPR, when Man City won the league in 2012. It was hard to know from my angle how good a chance it was, because when you saw him pulling his leg back, you had to be confident he was going to hit the back of the net. Fantastic.”

Manager: Jurgen Klopp

“I’d better pick the boss or he’ll get upset. Terry Venables gave me my debut and comes a close second. Jurgen is intense, but what you see is what you get and he’s a pleasure to work with.”

Substitutes

Rio Ferdinand

Sadio Mane

David Beckham

James Milner’s book, ‘Ask A Footballer’, is out now, published by Quercus Books (opens in new tab)

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Leo Moynihan has been a freelance football writer and author for over 20 years. As well as contributing to FourFourTwo for all of that time, his words have also appeared in The Times, the Sunday Telegraph, the Guardian, Esquire, FHM and the Radio Times. He has written a number of books on football, including ghost projects with the likes of David Beckham and Andrew Cole, while his last two books, The Three Kings and Thou Shall Not Pass have both been recognised by the Sunday Times Sports Book of the Year awards.