Comparing the team on James Milner’s Liverpool debut to the class of 2020
When James Milner joined Liverpool in 2015, few would have predicted what they were going to achieve over the next five years.
The Reds won the Champions League in 2019 and are now on the brink of winning their first league title in 30 years.
We’ve looked back at the Liverpool team from his debut – a 1-0 win at Stoke City in 2015 – and compared it their current side to see just how far they’ve come.
Simon Mignolet – Alisson Becker
In 2015-16, Mignolet was the undisputed No.1 at Liverpool, but he was dropped in favour of Loris Karius the following season.
The then world-record signing of Alisson from Roma in an initial £56million deal saw the Belgiu international well and truly usurped in 2018.
Alisson has been hugely important to the Reds’ recent growth under Jurgen Klopp, helping transform their rearguard into one of the best in Europe.
Nathaniel Clyne – Trent Alexander-Arnold
Clyne was also making his Liverpool debut against Stoke and quickly cemented himself as the club’s first-choice right-back.
But the England international started to be hampered by injury problems, which opened the door to Alexander-Arnold.
The 21-year-old grabbed his chance to get into the starting XI with both hands and has held on ever since, becoming one of the best right-backs in the world.
Happy birthday to Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold 🥳
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 7, 2019
Dejan Lovren – Virgil van Dijk
Liverpool had a leaky defence in 2016-16, with Lovren in particular guilty of some high-profile mistakes.
He remained a regular for a while thereafter, but Klopp made a significant move to fix his backline with the club-record signing of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton in January 2018, and Lovren has gradually become marginalised.
Since arriving at Anfield, Van Dijk has built a reputation as the best centre-back in the world and won the PFA Player of the Year award in 2018-19.
Martin Skrtel – Joe Gomez
Skrtel was a loyal servant to Liverpool, making over 300 appearances for the club, but he was slowly eased out of the side with 2015-16 proving to be his final season at Anfield.
Gomez, meanwhile, is at the other end of the spectrum and looks set to partner Van Dijk for the foreseeable future, with Joel Matip an able deputy.
Joe Gomez – Andrew Robertson
Gomez, James Milner and Alberto Moreno shared left-back duties in 2015-16 in what was at the time a problem position for the Reds.
In 2017, Liverpool eventually arrived at the unheralded signing of Robertson, who had just been relegated with Hull City.
After a slow start to his Liverpool career, the Scotland international has developed into arguably the best left-back in the world, completing a quite remarkable back five.
James Milner – Fabinho
Milner made his Liverpool debut in midfield but has been willing to plug virtually any gap in the Liverpool side over the last five years.
At 34, the England international is no longer a guaranteed starter, but he never lets the side down whenever called upon.
Liverpool decided to sign an out-and-out holding midfielder in Fabinho in 2018 and the 26-year-old has become instrumental to this Reds side, breaking down the majority of opposition attacks before they even reach that formidable backline.
Jordan Henderson – Jordan Henderson
Despite inheriting the armband from Steven Gerrard in 2015, Henderson continued to divide opinion among supporters.
But perceptions of the midfielder have changed dramatically over the last five years, and he will go down in folklore as a European Cup-winning captain with the Reds, and soon a Premier League-winning one too.
Jordan Henderson celebrates his 29th birthday today 🎊
❌ Told he couldn't run properly
❌ Told he wasn't good enough
❌ Told he was too safe
He's now a Champions League-winning captain 🏆🙌 pic.twitter.com/im9kVrhKor
— Football on BT Sport 🇩🇪 (@btsportfootball) June 17, 2019
Philippe Coutinho – Georginio Wijnaldum
Coutinho’s stunning long-range strike gave Liverpool a 1-0 victory against Stoke, and the midfielder was undoubtedly their best player in 2015-16.
The Brazil international continued to go from strength to strength under Klopp before completing his dream move to Barcelona in January 2018 in a deal worth £142million.
Wijnaldum may not provide regular provide moments of magic like Coutinho, but he has established himself as a key member of a team which is greater than the sum of its parts despite every part being pretty much perfect.
Jordan Ibe – Mo Salah
If anything encapsulates Liverpool’s transformation over the last five years, it’s this.
Ibe was expected to follow in the footsteps of Raheem Sterling, but the winger scored just four goals for the club and is now struggling for game-time at Bournemouth.
Salah has had no such problems in front of goal, scoring 91 goals in 144 appearances in all competitions since joining Liverpool in 2017.
Christian Benteke – Roberto Firmino
It seems strange to think that Benteke was once keeping Firmino out of the Liverpool starting Xl.
The Belgium international was a £32.5million signing from Aston Villa, but the writing was on the wall for the striker once Klopp took over from Brendan Rodgers.
Firmino, on the other hand, has become the perfect embodiment of Klopp’s football, with his defensive work-rate matching his attacking brilliance.
Adam Lallana – Sadio Mane
Lallana was fundamental to the start of the Anfield revival under Klopp, only for a string of fitness injuries to force him down the pecking order. We still love him, but it’s unlikely he’ll ever be a regular starter again.
Since joining Liverpool in 2016, Mane has developed into one of the best wingers in the world, helping form one of the most devastating front threes in Europe.