By Conor Allington

Liverpool acquired James Milner on a free transfer in June 2015 from rivals Manchester City, with him being made the club’s vice captain a month after his arrival.

Many people questioned the signing.

Why would a Liverpool squad that needed serious upgrades bring in an ageing midfielder who seemed to be on the decline?

However, the veteran midfielder in his sixth season at the club matures like a fine wine, improving year after year.

Over his 18-year professional career, Milner is arguably one of the most under-rated and under-appreciated players of the Premier League era.

The 34-year-old has won everything.

His honours include three League titles, one Champions League, one FA Cup, one League Cup, one Super Cup and one Club World Cup.

In the 2009-10 season, the Leeds-born midfielder also received the PFA young player of the year award for his excellent displays for Aston Villa.

Milner currently sits eighth in the Premier leagues all time assists table with 85 and fifth in the all-time appearance table with 545.

He has also chipped in with 55 goals in the league during his long professional career which has seen him play for Leeds, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Manchester City before arriving at Anfield.

His excellent performance against Leicester last night reminded us not only of his versatility but his importance to this Liverpool team.

The veteran, who turns 35 in January, was asked to play at right back against the Foxes, a position not so unfamiliar to him.

His exceptional versatility has seen him play in every position including a full season at left-back during the 2016/17 season.

The introduction of Wales international Neco Williams then saw him move into midfield where he continued his superb display by taking further control of Liverpool’s already dominant midfield.

Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester went into the game as favourites due to Liverpool’s increasing injury crisis.

They were without captain Jordan Henderson along with Van Dijk, Gomez, Thiago, Alexander-Arnold, Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Shaqiri.

However, up stepped James Milner wearing the armband, and he took control and inspired his team to a brilliant 3-0 victory sending the Reds joint top of the table.

He also chipped in with assists for the first and third goals taking his tally to a remarkable 41 assists in 226 games for Liverpool.

He once again demonstrated his importance to the squad with his experience, leadership and versatility.

Just three key factors to why he’s one of the main players of Klopp’s record-breaking side.

Milner said after the game: “I know I won’t start every game but whenever and wherever I am asked to play I will.”

One of the best free signings of the Premier League era.

And when the 34-year-old eventually hangs up his boots, he should be remembered as one of the all-time Premier Leagues greats.

Photo credits: Антон Зайцев