Rumour Has It: West Ham, Aston Villa and Man Utd to battle it out for Kalvin Phillips

By Sports Desk May 13, 2022

England midfielder Kalvin Phillips is reportedly on his way out of Leeds United, with Manchester United, Aston Villa and West Ham said to be the parties most interested in prying him away.

Phillips, 26, has been with Leeds since 2010, but Football Insider has reported he has no interest in remaining with the club next season, even if they remain in the Premier League.

The tough midfielder followed in the footsteps of Wilfried Zaha and Jack Butland as the only English players in the 21st century to earn a senior cap while having never played in any country's top division, and confirmed his class at Euro 2020, starting every game and earning the title of England's 2020-21 Men's Player of the Year.

 

TOP STORY – PHILLIPS GETS READY FOR EXCITING NEW CHAPTER

Believed to be valued at £60million, this will be the first time in Phillips' career that he has a chance to shape his own future and pick a situation he feels can elevate him into the conversation of the world's top midfielders.

There will be a Paul Pogba-sized hole in the centre of United's line-up, Villa have signalled their intent with their move for Philippe Coutinho, and David Moyes reportedly has visions of owning the English centre-mid pairing of Phillips and Declan Rice – or replacing the latter if they cannot retain his services through upcoming the transfer window.

Phillips missed four months of this season – from December to March – with a serious hamstring injury, restricting him to just one goal and one assist from 21 club appearances across the Premier League and Carabao Cup.

 

ROUND-UP

Newcastle have made Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin a priority target in the upcoming transfer window, according to the Telegraph.

– Fichajes is reporting Bayern Munich have entered the race for Paul Pogba, while The Mirror claims Juventus are confident about the Frenchman returning to his former Italian club.

– According to Give Me Sport, Chelsea are looking to bring in Sevilla's Jules Kounde to replace outgoing defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.

– Marca is reporting some of the world's biggest clubs, including Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Arsenal and Milan are chasing 19-year-old Racing striker Charly Alcaraz.

– The Athletic claims that if Raheem Sterling is to leave Manchester City in the upcoming transfer window, it will not be to Premier League clubs Arsenal or Tottenham, instead favouring one of Europe's top teams in Champions League contention.

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    When it comes to recruitment and squad construction, there aren't many clubs – if any – that are run more effectively than Manchester City.

    Their Premier League title success in the 2021-22 season was just another reminder of how good they are on the pitch, yet the people in charge are not the types to simply sit around admiring their achievements.

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    Moulded by Bielsa

    Of course, the most obvious – and arguably crucial – link here is Marcelo Bielsa. It was under the Argentinian coach that Phillips has played the best football of his career and cemented himself as an England regular.

    Bielsa is also considered one of Pep Guardiola's greatest inspirations, with an apparent 11-hour meeting between the pair back in 2006 said to have played a major role in the City boss' decision to go into management.

    The similarities between the two coaches' styles of play are significant, and this should facilitate a smooth transition for Phillips.

    Under Bielsa he'll have become accustomed to not only intense training sessions, but also a playing philosophy that revolves around possession-based football and relentless counter pressing.

    In terms of the latter, City are perhaps a little more considered in their efforts compared to Bielsa's Leeds, but either way Phillips has been exposed to the same fundamentals, and that can only be a tick in the pros column.

    After all, a second-season bounce has become commonplace for signings under Guardiola. Numerous players have needed a full campaign to truly get to grips with the demands required by the Catalan coach before going on to show significant improvement and growth thereafter – Phillips might be better-equipped than most to hit the ground running.

    But that brings up a separate issue; what will Phillips be to City?

    Rodri the immovable object

    Having come through Leeds' academy, established himself as a key player and then gone on to be a fulcrum in Bielsa's team, Phillips was the first name on the teamsheet – when fit – for several years at Elland Road.

    Regardless of his suitability for City, it seems unlikely he'll enjoy a similar status in Guardiola's team. Phillips is at his most effective as lone defensive midfielder, but so too is Rodri, and it's difficult to imagine the Spain international being suddenly taken out of the team given how effective he's proven to be.

    Rodri's 2,937 successful passes in the opposition's half since the start of the 2020-21 season is over 400 more than any other Premier League player, and his 577 ball recoveries over the same period is the joint-most alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, though the Dane has played almost 1,000 minutes more.

    Of course, who's to say Phillips couldn't play the role even more effectively? But the key thing to consider is that Rodri has an important function in both keeping City on the ball and then winning it back when they don't, and he demonstrably does both well.

    Nevertheless, Guardiola's proven he's a coach keen to rotate. He gave at least 900 minutes of Premier League football to 18 players last season, with only four teams bettering that, so Phillips can still expect plenty of game time.

    And, to be fair, Phillips might not have even been up to the task of being a regular starter for City given how much time he spent sidelined last season.

    A match made in heaven

    Clearly, then, Guardiola's rotation policy would suggest Phillips will have opportunities to deputise for Rodri and take up the back-up role vacated by Fernandinho, yet there's no doubt he possesses the skillset to also play alongside the former Atletico Madrid midfielder as well.

    First and foremost, he's a more progressive player than Rodri. Over the past two seasons, 28 per cent of Phillips' passes have been forward, the exact same figure as Fernandinho and a fair bit more than Rodri's 20 per cent.

    Similarly, in the same period Phillips has played 3.5 passes into the box every 90 minutes, whereas Rodri has averaged two, and his 1.0 dribble attempts each game is also slightly more than his new team-mate (0.9).

    But in a way it shouldn't necessarily matter which midfield role Phillips plays in, given he has a range of abilities that should suit him either as a number six or a number eight, especially in a Guardiola team.

    On top of that, Phillips doesn't turn 27 until December, so he is very much entering his prime years, and if anyone can squeeze every ounce of potential out of a player, it's Guardiola.

    Then when you consider Phillips' history with Bielsa and type of team he played in at Leeds, everything points to this being a match made in heaven.

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