Jurgen Klopp has explained how Liverpool veteran James Milner has a “massively important” role to play in the absence of captain Jordan Henderson and talismanic Virgil van Dijk.
Milner earned plaudits for his performance in the Champions League elimination at home to Real Madrid on Wednesday, having assumed the skipper’s armband from Gini Wijnaldum as club vice-captain.
The 35-year-old has been integral in helping the Reds win their last three Premier League games and move within three points of the top four.
And with Van Dijk expected to be out for the season and Henderson yet to resume training after a groin complaint, Milner’s influence over the closing weeks of the campaign could be crucial.
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“Massively important, very very important,” said Klopp about the leadership qualities of the midfielder.
“He has played very well, and we have won the games recently because he was on the pitch, not despite – I’m very sure about that!
“I’ve said it often that Millie is still very important for this group. Incredibly important, as a person, as a character but as a player as well.
“Not only in the dressing room, but as well as in the dressing room.”
Milner will hope for a fourth start in five matches when Liverpool journey to his boyhood club Leeds United on Monday.
And Klopp added: “Millie was always around playing or coming on whenever he was fit. There were some real little issues but enough of an issue to rule him out in the last couple of months.
“But now he is completely fit and hopefully he stays like this. He is an important player on and off the pitch and I’m really happy to have him.”