James Milner’s journey from exciting prospect, through byword for blandness to the centre of a supposed tug of love between Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City is complete.
The Citizens are 1/5 favourites to keep their man, with the 7/2 Gunners marginally ahead of the Anfield outfit (4/1) to house him at the end of the summer window.
Well-deserved warmth from the Champions League chasers for an underrated player it is too.
Yet it may also be representative of the shifting recruitment needs of the top teams in relation to UEFA’s home-grown players ruling, with clubs limited to 17 squad members who undertook their football education outside the British Isles over the age of 21.
Arsenal’s squad for the season just finished included only five British-trained stars of 22 or older.
The fact that one of them, Nicklas Bendtner, seems certain to leave the Emirates this summer makes the need for a serviceable replacement a pressing one.
However, Milner’s current employers seem to have belatedly realised the oddly integral role he plays in the club’s squad and wish to keep him in the fold for the 9/5-rated bid to retain their title next term.
After all, City’s squad for the triumphant Premier League campaign of 2013/14 contained 15 non-home-grown players and the exit door beckons for Englishmen Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards this summer.
Signing domestically-produced talent has long been a process in which paying over the odds is taken for granted, but this could escalate further, with Manuel Pellegrini telling the Daily Mail:
‘It’s very difficult to get the best English players because every team wants them. They are expensive and usually they are already at important teams’.
As such, Milner could become one of a select group of professional Englishmen, with the role of keeping one or other Champions League-chaser’s squad on the right side of the law, while gilding their CVs with non-essential roles in a range of silverware successes.
Chelsea targets John Stones and Ross Barkley seem primed for such roles on in the future.