Even those who have watched Kalvin Phillips thrive under Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United were surely surprised by the astonishing standard of the 25-year-old’s performance for England in their 1-0 win over Croatia on Sunday. Just a few weeks ago, there had been a debate over whether Phillips should be in Gareth Southgate’s squad at all. Now, he might be undroppable from the first team.
While England boast countless world class attacking midfielders and wide forwards to offer threat in the final third, Phillips ties it all together by providing an anchor in the centre of the pitch. It would, however, he wrong to typecast him as a midfield destroyer. His all-round game deserves more respect than that
Predictably, Phillips’ Man of the Match display against Croatia has already sparked transfer speculation around the 25-year-old with reports from Spain linking him with Real Madrid. Liverpool are also believed to be long-term admirers of Phillips having tracked him for the last two years.
Manchester City, however, would be the perfect destination for Kalvin Phillips. His performance in the win over Croatia proved he could be the long-term successor to Fernandinho at the Etihad Stadium. City will have to replace the veteran Brazilian at some point in the near future and Phillips should be at the top of their shortlist.
The education Bielsa has given Phillips at Elland Road would give him a good chance of absorbing Pep Guardiola’s ideas and methods at Manchester City such is the philosophical overlap between the two football thinkers. Guardiola has spoken many times over the years about the influence Bielsa has had on him as a coach.
Fernandinho, and the role he plays for Manchester City, is often mischaracterised. While the 36-year-old does break up opposition play, frequently through fouling, he is also central to the way the Premier League champions construct attacks from deep through his shrewd use of the ball. Fernandinho is more technicality able than many give him credit for.
Kalvin Phillips demonstrated, by creating the opportunity from which Raheem Sterling scored England’s winner against Croatia, that he is capable of the same. In fact, the argument could be made that the 25-year-old would offer Manchester City another dimension and make them an even moire multi-faceted outfit in midfield.
“We watched him a lot the season before last in the Championship,” Southgate said about Kalvin Phillips after England’s opening Euro 2020 fixture. “We were going to bring him in to the squad ahead of the Euros a year ago. He’s now had a year of Premier League football. He’s technically good and we also knew the athleticism today was going to be so important.
“Kalvin is a fabulous boy to work with. So unassuming and I thought his performance was outstanding. Two passes behind the defence in the first half were top level and the contribution for the goal summed his day up.”
City might be reigning Premier League champions having won the English top flight title in three of the last four years but there are suggestions Guardiola wants to evolve his side. Jack Grealish and Harry Kane have been mentioned as targets to help him do this, but the signing of Kalvin Phillips would also progress things at the Etihad Stadium.
Much was already known about Phillips, a standout performer for an impressive Leeds United team that finished in the top half of the Premier League table this season, before Euro 2020, but he could still be one of the breakout players of this summer’s tournament. Guardiola has now seen what Phillips does for England. His thoughts have surely already turned to what he could do for City.
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