Liverpool star James Milner has named perhaps an unexpected star as the toughest he has faced in the Premier League – and has revealed how he reacted when Lionel Messi insulted him.
Milner, signed by the Reds in 2015, has grown to become a key member of Jurgen Klopp’s side due to his versatility, the 33-year-old often seen filling in at full-back in the absence of Trent Alexander-Arnold or Andy Robertson.
The player revealed in his interview with The Guardian that he is close to extending his contract with Liverpool, but the same article also revealed some interesting nuisances about his career in the game, not least who he rates as his most difficult opponent and of his recent encounters with Lionel Messi.
When asked which opponent has given him the most difficulty over the years, Milner had no hesitation in naming Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.
“I’ve been sent off for tackles on him twice,” he told The Guardian. “He’s a talent. Unpredictable. You see how difficult it is to deal with him when you’re watching him. And when you play against Zaha he’s tricky and very tough to face.”
Last week Patrice Evra said the same about Milner when naming him as the player against whom he struggled most and Milner gave his thoughts on the comments.
“I suppose it’s a compliment,” Milner added. “He thought I was a nuisance.”
Liverpool of course are the defending Champions League holders having beaten Tottenham 2-0 in the final in Madrid in early June. While those memories are still fresh in the minds of plenty, it is the comeback win against Barcelona in the semi-finals which still resonates with most and Milner was asked for his thoughts on his encounters with one of the greatest-ever, Messi, across the two games.
Milner, a fluent speaker of Spanish having opted to teach his kids it while at home, did not reveal the extent of what was said to Messi after he had fouled him in the first leg at Barcelona last season.
Messi reminded Milner of how he nutmegged him while calling him a “burro” – without realising the Yorkshireman understood it meant donkey in English. “I just smiled and went back to the dressing room. We weren’t in the best position then. But Messi’s incredible. I’m lucky to have played against him and [Cristiano] Ronaldo because the numbers they put up every year are ridiculous.”