Roberto Firmino has become a pastor in his hometown in Brazil, alongside his wife, in the church they founded together

James Milner’s ‘Perfect 11’ of Former Teammates

James Milner has had a wonderful football career. The Englishman broke through to Leeds’ first team at the age of just 16 in 2002. He went on to play for Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Liverpool, while also representing his country on 61 occasions. Now in his late 30s, he is still going strong at Brighton & Hove Albion.

Milner has played alongside so many world-class players during his illustrious playing career, but who does he think are the best players he has ever played alongside? The Englishman named his ‘perfect XI’ of teammates, both past and present, in an interview with FourFourTwo in 2020. So many legends feature, while a plethora of talent also misses out. View who he selected below…

GIVEMESPORT Key Statistic: James Milner is the 9th youngest goalscorer in Premier League history after finding the net for Leeds United against Sunderland in 2002 (aged 16 years, 356 days).

GK: Alisson Becker

Played with Milner at: Liverpool

Alisson

Milner had the pleasure of playing alongside Alisson Becker from 2018-2023. The Brazilian has been tremendous during his time at Liverpool, and he has already cemented himself as one of the best goalkeepers in Premier League history. Speaking about his choice to include Alisson, Milner said:

“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!”

Alisson’s Liverpool Statistics

Appearances
Goals
Goals Conceded
Clean Sheets

263
1
236
114

Manchester United's Andre Onana, Arsenal's David Raya, and Liverpool's Alisson.

David Raya and Alisson both feature among the 10 best goalkeepers in the Premier League right now.

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold

Played with Milner at: Liverpool

Trent Alexander-Arnold in action for Liverpool

There may be questions over Alexander-Arnold’s defensive capabilities, but what he offers going forward is just extraordinary. He is set to play a major role for Liverpool and England for the next decade. Not many players in his position have the ability to step into a midfield role and control the game in the way the Englishman has started to do for club and country. Milner was full of praise for the Liverpool full-back, saying:

“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.”

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s Liverpool Statistics

Appearances
Goals
Assists

310
19
81

CB: Jonathan Woodgate

Played with Milner at: Leeds United, England

Newcastle United centre-back Jonathan Woodgate

A surprising choice, given Milner also played alongside the likes of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Vincent Kompany. Woodgate played for the likes of Leeds, Newcastle, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur in his career, while he also made eight appearances for his country. The pair were teammates in Milner’s younger years, but he was still full of compliments for his ex-colleague, stating:

“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.”

Jonathan Woodgate’s Leeds and England Statistics

Team
Appearances
Goals
Assists

Leeds United
139
5
3

England
8
0
0

CB: Virgil van Dijk

Played with Milner at: Liverpool

Virgil van Dijk

Again, the English midfielder has lined up alongside a vast array of talented centre-backs, but one of the more recent names made it into the XI. Virgil van Dijk was colossal for Liverpool at the height of their success under Jürgen Klopp. In Milner’s final season at Anfield, the Dutch defender suffered a dip in the lofty performance levels he had previously set himself, but this did occur after the former Reds’ vice-captain had selected his team. It is unlikely that his mind would have been changed based on the way he spoke of his former teammate:

“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.”

Virgil van Dijk’s Liverpool Statistics

Appearances
Goals
Assists

270
23
12

3:29

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LB: Ashley Cole

Played with Milner at: England

Ashley Cole looking on through the rain

Rounding off a sensational backline is former Arsenal and Chelsea left-back, Ashley Cole. Milner didn’t play in the same club side as Cole, but the pair were part of the same ‘Golden Generation’ of English football. Both men pulled on the famous white shirt of the Three Lions, and it is hard to argue he is the best player in his position to have played alongside Milner. Andy Robertson may have been the back-up plan, but Cole is widely regarded as the first-choice left-back in the greatest Premier League XI of all time. Milner said:

“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.”

Ashley Cole’s England Statistics

Appearances
Goals
Assists

107
0
7

CM: David Silva

Played with Milner at: Man City

David Silva

One of the greatest passers of the ball in Premier League history is the first midfielder on the teamsheet. Milner won two league titles while playing in the same side as David Silva and the Spanish playmaker clearly left an impression on his fellow midfielder. There was a side to Silva’s game that the ex-Valencia man wasn’t recognised for, but Milner shed light on this as he explained:

“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.”

David Silva’s Manchester City Statistics

Appearances
Goals
Assists

436
77
140

CM: Steven Gerrard

Played with Milner at: England

Steven Gerrard

A man who often makes his way into XIs selected by former colleagues, Steven Gerrard is among the greatest midfielders to grace the Premier League, if not the best. The Englishman was all-action as he could do it all. Score, assists, tackle, and cross, you name it and he could pull it off. Despite both representing Liverpool, the pair only just missed out on being teammates on Merseyside as Milner signed in the same transfer window that Gerrard moved on to LA Galaxy. Instead, the duo formed part of the same England midfield.

“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.”

Steven Gerrard’s England Statistics

Appearances
Goals
Assists

114
21
23

CM: Frank Lampard

Played with Milner at: England, Man City

Frank Lampard in action for England

Frank Lampard’s inclusion means that only one man in the famous Gerrard, Lampard and Paul Scholes debate misses out. It wasn’t just on the international stage that the two men played together, as Lampard joined Manchester City on loan towards the end of his playing days. Milner was a key part of the Citizens’ team at the time and often started games ahead of his former England colleague. Full of praise for the 45-year-old, Milner highlighted the goalscoring prowess of the Chelsea hero.

“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.”

Frank Lampard’s Manchester City and England Statistics

Team
Appearances
Goals
Assists

Manchester City
38
8
4

England
106
29
12

RW: Roberto Firmino

Played with Milner at: Liverpool

Roberto Firmino

Liverpool boasted one of the best front threes in recent memory with Roberto Firmino maybe not being the most glamorous of the three players. His work often went unnoticed due to the goalscoring exploits of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, but Milner appreciated the work the magical Brazilian did for the team. Having such a selfless nature and always putting the team’s success ahead of his own personal adulation is an admirable quality that Firmino certainly possessed.

“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.”

Roberto Firmino’s Liverpool Statistics

Appearances
Goals
Assists

362
111
79

David Luiz (chelsea), Roberto Firmino (liverpool), and Gilberto Silva (arsenal) with a Brazilian football logo and Premier League logo in background

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LW: Sergio Aguero

Played with Milner at: Man City

Sergio Aguero

Aguero and Milner played alongside each other at Man City. The Argentine went down in history as one of the best strikers to ever play in the Premier League, bagging 184 English top-flight goals. One of the main forces in the Citizens’ team that won the aforementioned league titles that Milner lifted, the ex-Atletico Madrid forward was one of the most lethal players English football has seen. There is a special moment that Aguero is fondly remembered for, and it is one that sticks in Milner’s mind.

“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.”

Sergio Aguero’s Manchester City Statistics

Appearances
Goals
Assists

390
260
73

ST: Alan Shearer

Played with Milner at: Newcastle

Newcastle's Alan Shearer following his 1st minute goal vs Man City

Another player from Milner’s early playing days, the Premier League’s top goalscorer of all time, had to make it into the team after being part of the same Newcastle side as Milner in the early 2000s. His record of 260 goals is unlikely to be beaten any time soon after Harry Kane departed the division for Bayern Munich in 2023. A man born to score goals, Shearer was the deadliest forward we have seen since the conception of the division in 1992.

“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.”

Alan Shearer’s Newcastle Statistics

Appearances
Goals
Assists

405
206
58

Thierry Henry, Heung-min Son and Mohamed Salah with the Premier League Golden Boot trophy.

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Manager: Jurgen Klopp

Managed Milner at: Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp

At the time of the interview, Milner was still a Liverpool player and, as such, he had to keep the manager onside with his answer. Klopp would likely have been his first choice anyway, as the German has become one of the best managers the league has ever seen. There were one or two heated exchanges caught between the pair amid emotional moments on the pitch, but there was always a smile at the end and a classic Klopp hug. The Reds’ boss was always reliant on Milner being one of the main leaders in his dressing room.

“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.”

James Milner leaves out huge names including David Beckham and Mohamed Salah

Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah in action

The downside of picking an XI made up of players you have played with over a 20-year career is surely the big-name players that need to miss out. Mohamed Salah has broken into the top 10 goalscorers in Premier League history, but there is no room in the prestigious Milner XI. The Egyptian fired Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2019 and Premier League success in 2020 as the main talisman of the side.

Mohamed Salah (At Liverpool), Kevin De Bruyne (at Man City), James Milner (at Brighton), and Harry Kane (at Spurs) – with a Premier League logo and Hall of Fame written in Gold

James Milner, Harry Kane and Phil Foden are all candidates to one day join Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry in the Premier League Hall of Fame.

Midfield superstars Yaya Toure and David Beckham also failed to make the cut after playing with Milner for Man City and England respectively. Beckham is one of England’s best midfielders of all time but doesn’t make it in ahead of Gerrard and Lampard. Toure misses out on the XI despite being one of the top African players to have played in the league.

 

 

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