Manchester City v Sunderland - Premier League

James Milner denies contract offer from City but will stay and fight for his place


Despite starting only 12 Premier League matches last year, James Milner has decided to remain at Manchester City and fight for his place.

It was that bit-part role that gave the 28-year-old midfielder second-thoughts when the club reportedly were willing to present him with a new four-year deal at the close of the 2013/14 season. Milner stunningly turned down those talks, preferring to remain at City for the remaining 12 months of his contract and see whether he can break into the Starting XI.

A difficult decision, no doubt, to leave a four-year deal with City on the table.

But Milner is a footballers’ footballer. A knuckle-down, never say die midfielder known for incredible fitness, work-rate and a rock-solid mentality. If he fails to break into the squad, life will go on elsewhere in the Premier League where multiple clubs, including Arsenal and Liverpool, have noted their interest.

But the reason why his story is so interesting, nay, compelling, is not because Milner has the fortitude to roll the dice with one of the most competitive squads in the world but because his decision is purely based on love of the game. And in a world of money-trumps-all professional football, that’s saying something.

When City offered Milner the most recent contract reports claimed the player and his representatives didn’t even talk numbers. Money didn’t matter to Milner. The only thing that mattered was football — and whether or not he’d be playing enough of it.

The answer to that predicament will emerge over the next six months when Milner does everything in his power to prove to Manuel Pellegrini that he deserves proper burn. To do that, he’ll have to prove himself more vital than Jesus Navas, Samir Nasri, and, in some instances, David Silva. A tall order, no doubt, but one that deserves the appreciation of Premier League fans, regardless of who they support.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.