Newcastle sold James Milner to Aston Villa so they could sign Bastian Schweinsteiger

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One of Liverpool's most surprising success stories this season has been James Milner.

As versatile as Milner is, Jurgen Klopp's decision to switch him to left-back still looked like a massive gamble.

But it has seemingly paid off and the former England international has even chipped in with a few goals from the penalty spot.

Nevertheless, his career could have gone very differently had one of his former clubs not tried to replace him with Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Milner's switch from Newcastle to Aston Villa in 2008 was a bit surprising to many of the Toon faithful and it was arguably the move that kick-started his career.

The former Leeds academy graduate was beginning to show signs of the potential he would go on to achieve at Villa, Manchester City and now Liverpool, and given Newcastle's current plight, some must be wondering why he was sold in the first place.

The Magpies manager at the time, Kevin Keegan, was reluctant to let the midfielder leave St. James' Park but a member of his coaching staff has revealed that it was the possibility of signing Schweinsteiger from Bayern Munich that convinced the ex-England boss to agree on the deal.

"The story goes - and this is a true story - we didn't want him to leave but we needed to get other players in because we'd had a bid of 15 million quid." Terry McDermott said, as per The Mirror.

"Kevin said 'if we sell him for 15 million quid, how are we going to replace him?'

"They (Newcastle's board) said 'we've already got one - Schweinsteiger'. He's at Man United now but seven or eight years ago he was a superstar and they said we could get him.

"The idea of accepting the bid of 15 million for Milner, which was a lot of money then, and then we're looking to get Schweinsteiger it's a no brainer."

Indeed, Schweinsteiger might currently be an outcast in Jose Mourinho's Manchester United squad but as a 24-year-old, he was considered one of the best midfielders around.

So you can understand Keegan's enthusiasm at the prospect of bringing the former Germany international to the northeast.

But in an embarrassing turn of events, it would appear the Newcastle board underestimated how much Schweinsteiger would actually cost - massively.

McDermott added: "After he's signed for Villa - the day after - we're trying to sign Schweinsteiger and the answer was 'absolutely no chance, it will cost you £50 million if you wanted to buy Schweinsteiger'.

"So we had no one to replace him. But he was irreplaceable anyway because he could play anywhere."

The idea that Bayern even entertained the notion of selling a German international about to reach his prime years seems unlikely and Keegan later resigned from his post after claiming he had not been given enough financial support.

That one piece of misjudgement by Newcastle's board was effectively the springboard to Milner's subsequent success.

But no one would have ever thought he'd have Schweinsteiger to thank, though!

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Alan Shearer
Premier League
James Milner
Newcastle United
Aston Villa

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