James Milner reveals why he rejected Leeds United move for Brighton on Liverpool exit amid Victor Orta hint
James Milner has confirmed Leeds United tried to sign him this summer but came in “very late” after he’d already decided on a move to Brighton.
The former Whites youth player suggested to The Times (25 August), without naming him, that Victor Orta played a big role as there had been “no interest” until he left, after which it was “all speed ahead” but all too late since he’d made up his mind to move to the Amex by the time an Elland Road return came up.
The ex-England international, 37, left Liverpool after eight years when his contract expired having won a third Premier League title, following two at Manchester City, and the Champions League.
Milner said: “Leeds were interested very late. When there were changes in the hierarchy there, when somebody left the club, it was all speed ahead, but before that there was no interest. By that point my mind was pretty much made up that Brighton was the right move for me.”
It was reported by 90min on 4 May that there was interest from Leeds, while the Daily Mail reported on 16 May that an “emotional return” could be on the cards if relegation was avoided – Orta left the club on 2 May ahead of Javi Gracia’s sacking [The Athletic].
He may be 37 but Milner would in many ways be the ideal veteran presence in Daniel Farke’s midfield, where he can currently only call on three first-team options in 22-year-old Ethan Ampadu and teenagers Archie Gray and Darko Gyabi.
Whether the Brighton man would have been prepared to drop down to the Championship is open to question, but if he was going to do it anywhere then Elland Road would likely have been close to the top of the list.
Following a disastrous final Premier League season in which chaos reigned and the club were relegated Orta’s reputation could hardly be lower around Leeds, and this implication from Milner won’t do anything to reverse that.
The loan release clauses the Spaniard negotiated in the contracts of high-priced signings who underperformed last year have helped contribute to a rough summer with a huge number of players leaving, including every central midfielder from last season’s squad.
So if interest in bringing Milner back only shot up once he had left, when it was too late it, will be another unwelcome gift left behind by the former sporting director.
It is impossible to say whether the club would have been certain to sign the third-highest Premier League appearance maker of all time had they got in before Brighton, given the Seagulls are an attractive option for many currently, but there would been a chance and he surely should have been on Orta’s radar at that point.
Instead Farke is desperately trying to land further reinforcements in the midfield during the final days of the window, with a dramatic collapse Friday making that all the harder, with the Milner move a case of what might have been.