Burnley boss Vincent Kompany is not surprised by James Milner’s longevity and said his old team-mate is perhaps the hardest-working player he has ever known.
Kompany will come up against Milner on Saturday when the Clarets head south to take on Brighton, the club Milner joined in the summer after eight years at Liverpool.
The 37-year-old has made 13 appearances for the Seagulls despite some injury niggles, lending his wealth of experience as Roberto De Zerbi’s squad balances the demands of European football with their domestic duties for the first time.
“He’s older than me!” joked Kompany, who is three months Milner’s junior. “I’m not surprised and if there’s one guy that was going to do that it was going to be Milly. His longevity – it’s because he’s probably the hardest working player I’ve ever played with.
“I’ve seen his journey from being this winger, attacking midfielder, central midfielder, full-back. And every single time people would have bet against him. But if you know him and his personality, you would never bet a penny against him…
“There might have been loads of players who are better than James, but how many have had his career? Very, very few.”
Milner’s medal collection includes a Champions League crown with Liverpool and three Premier League titles. He won two of those alongside Kompany at City before joining Liverpool on a free transfer in 2015.
That exit left a sour taste among many in the blue half of Manchester, but not Kompany.
“You always want your best players to stay but for his career it was a great move,” he said. “I’ve always wanted him to do well.”
Saturday’s trip to the Amex Stadium will bring back happy memories for Kompany, who lifted the Premier League trophy there in 2019 in his final game in English football.
“It feels like a lifetime ago, the job I’m in consumes you that much,” he said. “But, yeah, it was four-and-a-half years ago – it feels like it was 20 years ago.
“I’d be rubbish if I was in that profession now. But they are good memories and maybe in the future – maybe one Christmas – those moments can be replayed with the kids.”
City won 4-1 that day to pip Liverpool – and Milner – to the title by one point with a run of 14 straight victories, perhaps fortunate to come across a Brighton side who had only ensured their own top-flight survival the weekend before when Cardiff lost to Crystal Palace.
But the club Burnley will face on Saturday have come a long, long way since then, and are seen by many as the model club for anyone wanting to challenge the Premier League’s top sides.
Kompany pointed out Burnley were a model themselves for a long time, having held their own in the top flight for seven years despite limited resources, and said it was not as simple as trying to copy what someone has done.
“If this is a path, then I don’t think we should compare ourselves to them, absolutely not,” he said.
“We’re at a completely different stage, but there is a template that’s taken time for them to develop and that’s obviously allowing them to compete above their means.
“That should be a goal for any team in this league.”