And yet, in spite of racking up more than 100 appearances for the Blues since then, there is a sense that the Yorkshireman has never quite been a first-choice player, given some of the stellar talent jostling with him for a place in the team.
That's despite some decent runs in the side, in particular in the first half of the 2011-12 title-winning season that included an outstanding display in the 6-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.
His versatility is an asset, but it can be a hindrance—what's his best position? More of that later.
In the meantime, here are five reasons why James Milner is a big asset for City.
There, I've used the "V" word already.
Out wide—on either flank—in the middle or in the holding role in front of the defence, Milner can do them all and has done in his time at City.
That's a big tick in his box. If Jesus Navas, David Silva or Samir Nasri are unavailable or rotated out, Milner can fill in for them. Not with trickery, for sure, but with persistence and graft.
For example, Milner will happily charge for the byeline to pull back a cross rather than try to outfox a defender.
Not blessed with great pace, Milner is all about getting the ball to someone else who can do something more with it and, as such, has occasionally done a job in the holding role.
A safe pair of the hands with the media, Milner has never let slip where he thinks is his best position—if he has an opinion on it at all.
With injuries and suspensions bound to take their toll this season, Milner's utility man status will be vital for the Blues.
OK, he does not get many, so any James Milner goals will be a welcome bonus.
His last (at the time of writing) came at Old Trafford in April's derby, levelling the scores before Sergio Aguero nicked all three points late on.
Manchester United's home is a happy hunting ground for Milner, who was outstanding in the 6-1 win in October 2011.
The more recent win served notice that City could match United one-on-one, although the Premier League title was almost back in the red half of Manchester by the time he scored.
Will Milner get the chance to shine in Sunday's derby? Stick with Bleacher Report for all the usual coverage!
For those of you unfamiliar with what can be seen as typical characteristics of a Yorkshireman (and I know, having lived there for many years now), James Milner has them in abundance.
Phlegmatic, down to earth, durable, uncomplicated, not suffering fools gladly...all these and more—and considering some of the dramatics to have beset City in recent years, that can only be a good thing.
It would be nice to know what Milner thought of the Tevez-Mancini bust-up in Munich or Mario Balotelli's antics on and off the pitch, but it's unlikely he will spill the beans just yet.
"I set higher standards than anyone and don't particularly need anyone to tell me when I've played badly or not had a good game."
So said Milner himself to The Independent in March 2013, at a time when City's title defence was unravelling amidst stories of dressing room unrest.
Milner's hard-working approach and attitude will go down well with the City hierarchy after the accident-waiting-to-happen status of Balotelli and Tevez.
A teetotaller, Milner is also unlikely to feature in any off-the-field scrapes.
Since his move from Villa three years ago, Milner has only been unavailable through injury for the very odd game here and there.
This has meant that, despite his never-quite-first-choice status, he's still racked up nearly 70 Premier League starts as he's mostly been available when needed as others around him have dropped out for fitness or disciplinary reasons.
As for discipline, it's pretty good with his red card against West Brom last year a blip.
With another long campaign on several fronts under way for City, boss Manuel Pellegrini will need Milner, although he'll want to improve on a disappointing 0-0 draw at Stoke, his first start of the domestic season.