Liverpool summer deal validated as Jurgen Klopp private talks prove true

James Milner made a big impact for Liverpool against Fulham having signed a new contract because he could still play a part.

Ask a Liverpool supporter what the main issue at the club is at present and there'll be only one answer.

Injuries are the hot topic of conversation among Kopites just one game into the season - particularly in midfield.

Thiago Alcantara gingerly limped out with a hamstring injury in Saturday's 2-2 opening-day draw against Fulham.

Midfield problems

As the Spain international hobbled off at Craven Cottage, he became the fourth engine-room operation to sustain an issue.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out for a prolonged period with a hamstring problem of his own, while Curtis Jones has a calf complaint.

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Naby Keita, meanwhile, could not overcome an illness in time to be involved against Fulham.

Indeed, considering that Klopp has been barraged with questions about whether Liverpool are interested in signing a new midfielder in the summer transfer window, a fresh casualty was the last thing needed.

Yet even after admitting Thiago will be out for a while, Klopp has remained steadfast when it comes to his policy. The Reds won't panic and recruit someone not good enough.

Thiago Alcantara limps off against Fulham. Picture: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

A usually well-oiled machine ran about as smoothly as Del Boy's Reliant Robin.

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Klopp wasn't awash with options to replace Thiago. He plucked for Harvey Elliott who indeed made a lively impact to earn the Reds a draw.

But James Milner's performance when coming on for Fabinho in the 59th minute was just as important.

Until that stage, the Reds lacked any sort of cohesion in the middle of the park.

Fabinho was unusually lethargic. His intelligent pressing was scarce. To be frank, it was a rare off-day for the Brazilian.

Jordan Henderson toiled away without making a tangible impact.

Milner marvels

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However, Milner came on and provided Liverpool with the controlled aggression there had been a dearth of.

He raised the intensity and made penetrative runs that unsettled Fulham's back four.

Milner could well have not been someone Klopp could turn to had he not signed a new one-year contract in the summer.

Aged 36, the ex-England international would have been wholeheartedly forgiven had he wanted to leave Anfield for regular game-time in his twilight years.

‘I can still play my part’

Having been at the bedrock of Liverpool's success under Klopp, Milner would have been given - and will whenever he does depart -a hero's send-off.

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But Milner felt that, despite being a veteran, he still had a role to play.

“I’m very pleased to be staying for another season,” Milner said.

“I have never taken playing for this club for granted and I never will.

“An overriding feeling for me – and a vitally important one in the process – was the belief I can still contribute to the team. The gaffer was clear about what he thought and that was a big factor in me extending my contract.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with James Milner. Picture: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

“Ultimately it was a decision I made, with the support of my family, on the basis of the quality of people at the club; teammates first and foremost, along with the manager and coaches. Plus the brilliant training ground staff, who are the heartbeat of AXA. From the medical room, sports science, the kit department, nutrition, the canteen and office staff. All people who make the team what it is.

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“As long as I can still play my part, that’s not something easy to walk away from."

When signing fresh terms, Milner would have known he wasn't going to suddenly find himself back at the forefront of Klopp's plans.

The number of starts he's made over the past couple of seasons have been on the decline.

Yet after one game, the decision to give him a new deal - and for Milner to sign it - has already been justified.