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What Next For Manchester and England Midfielder Kalvin Phillips?

What Next For Manchester and England Midfielder Kalvin Phillips?

Kalvin Phillips‘ stock was at an all-time high only four years ago, but football pundits are now gravely concerned about the midfielder’s future. At the end of the 2020-21 season, Phillips had just completed his first season in the Premier League with newly-promoted Leeds United. Today, with only a handful of games remaining of the 2023-24 campaign, Phillips finds himself surplus to requirements at Manchester City and without any potential suitors lining up to sign him. What lies in store for the man once named “Yorkshire Pirlo”?

Phillips joined Leeds United’s academy at 14 in 2010 before fulfilling his dream of playing professionally for his boyhood club during the 2014-15 season. Initially a central or box-to-box midfielder, the young Phillips struggled to break into the Leeds team during his first two seasons, playing only 12 games. However, he became a regular in the side from the 2016-17 season.

Converting to a Central Defensive Midfielder

A new-look Phillips was revealed during the 2018-19 Championship season. Maverick head coach Marcelo Bielsa has taken over at the Leeds United helm and converted Phillips to a deep-lying playmaker, much to the surprise of Leeds’ loyal fanbase. Bielsa transformed Leeds into a thrilling team, one that betting websites made favorites for promotion to the Premier League, and Phillips was the glue that held everything together.

Bielsa employed an all-out attacking style during his time at Leeds, with every player ordered to immediately press once the team lost possession. Phillips mostly sat back, found pockets of space, broke up attacks, and turned defense into attack with simple and raking passes. The Elland Road crowd regularly sang, “He’s magic, you know. Phillips is the Yorkshire Pirlo.”

Phillips’ performances did not go unnoticed, resulting in Leeds rejecting £27-30 million bids from Premier League teams. England manager Gareth Southgate gave Phillips his international debut in August 2020, making Phillips only the third player in the 21st century to represent England before appearing in English football’s top flight.

The lack of Premier League experience was soon checked off after Phillips was instrumental in Leeds’ promotion from the Championship during the 2019-20 season. Phillips played 29 games during Leeds’ first season back in the Premier League, helping his beloved team finish a respectable ninth in the table, only three points off a return to European football.

Leeds struggled during the 2021-22 season. The club sacked Biesla in February, and only a win over Brentford in the season’s final game preserved Leeds’ Premier League status. Jesse Marsch, Bielsa’s replacement, preferred his team to play a narrow formation that did not suit Phillips, and the writing was on the wall for the England international.

Big Money Move to Manchester City

Big Money Move to Manchester City

Manchester City signed Phillips on a six-year deal on July 4, 2022, after Leeds accepted a £42 million offer, ending Phillips’ time in Yorkshire; he played 234 games and scored 14 goals. While nobody could blame Phillips for wanting to play for City and Pep Guardiola, even the Leeds fans who adored him knew he had zero chance of dislodging Rodri from the City starting XI. Injuries and Rodri’s emergence as the world’s best central defensive midfielder limited Phillips to only 12 Premier League appearances and 21 in all competition.

Phillips started the current campaign down the pecking order at City, playing only four times in the league before the January transfer window opened. City agreed to allow Phillips to leave if the right offer came along, ultimately resulting in him joining West Ham United until the end of the season.

A Dreadful Start to Life in London

On paper, West Ham looked like the perfect team for Phillips to get his career back on track. However, disaster struck only three minutes into his Hammers debut. In the third minute, Phillips accidentally passed to Bournemouth’s Dominick Solanke, who slotted the ball home. David Moyes substituted Phillips 68 minutes into his debut.

Phillips was dropped to the bench for the 3-0 loss at Manchester United and the 6-0 home defeat against Arsenal before being recalled for the trip to Nottingham Forest. Phillips received two yellow cards in three second-half minutes and has played only 69 minutes of Premier League football since.

Matters have grown worse for the 28-year-old because Gareth Southgate has not picked him for the friendlies against Brazil and Belgium, stating that Phillips’ recent form is not good enough to warrant his selection for the national team.

What Next for Phillips?

Unless Phillips somehow reproduces the form that saw excel in England’s UEFA Euro 2020 campaign in West Ham’s final nine Premier League games, the Hammers will unlikely make his loan move permanent. It is blatantly obvious that his time at Manchester City is over, meaning Phillips will be looking for a new club at the end of the current season.

Rumors continue to circulate about Phillips’s possible return to Leeds United if the Whites gain promotion to the Premier League this season. While Phillips would likely be welcomed back to Elland Road with open arms, his £150,000 per week wages would be a significant stumbling block for Leeds, who used to pay him £40,000-£50,000 per week, and that is before any potential transfer fee.

Phillips still has four years left on his City contract, and the management team at the Etihad Stadium will want to recoup some of the £42 million they paid Leeds two years ago. City commanding a fee, probably in the region of £20 million, and Phillips’ substantial wages limit his possible destinations.

Serie A’s Juventus were reportedly interested in taking Phillips on loan before West Ham stepped in, and a move there could work. Phillips’ preferred playing style is suited to the slower pace of Italian football, but you can count on one hand the number of Englishmen who have succeeded in Italy.

In short, Phillips is unlikely to play for City again, and his future is uncertain. His next move, whether on loan at another Premier League club or for a team in Europe, has to be successful. Otherwise, one of the most talented footballers to hail from Yorkshire could find himself playing reserve team football into his 30s, which would be an incredible waste for Phillips and for football.


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