Kalvin Phillips was a crucial player for his club and national team two years ago. He has to leave Manchester City to get his career back on track, even if that means sacrificing an easy route to every trophy in club football.
Kalvin Phillips joined Manchester City from his boyhood club Leeds United for £45million last summer. It was a move that suited everyone involved. Leeds got a decent fee, City signed a very good midfielder, and the player was able to maintain his strong affiliation with the Elland Road faithful by leaving for a club they didn’t really care about. If he had joined Manchester United, all hell would have broken loose.
Liverpool could certainly have used a player of Phillips’ quality when he was on the market but Jurgen Klopp passed. At the time of his switch to the Etihad, Klopp had Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and a more reliable Thiago Alcantara at his disposal, so saving FSG over £40m on a player not guaranteed to walk straight into the Reds’ starting XI was a no-brainer.
A year on from the England international’s transfer away from Leeds, he probably won’t have too many regrets having picked up a winner’s medal in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League. From a club standpoint, it was the greatest season in their history – and they are still not done on the trophy hunt – but from a personal standpoint for Phillips, it was the most difficult season of his career.
Obviously, he underwent shoulder surgery early on in the season, but the 27-year-old only played the full 90 minutes three times, appearing in a grand total of 21 matches across an entire campaign in which Manchester City had 61 fixtures. Playing understudy to Rodri – the best defensive midfielder in the world – was never going to be easy, but bloody hell, even Phillips did not expect to be such a bit-part player.
Rodri isn’t going anywhere either. He is the same age as Phillips and can fairly be regarded as Manchester City’s most important player. The only way Phillips should stay at his current club is if the Spaniard suffers from injuries or becomes sh*t overnight. Neither is likely.
There will be the argument that Jack Grealish had a difficult maiden year at City before coming good, so Phillips can do the same, but there was always going to be more patience with a player who cost £100m and actually played a decent number of minutes after his transfer. It is a completely different situation.
A transfer to Liverpool could be the best solution for Phillips and one the Cityzens should reluctantly agree to sanction, though selling to a rival club in Arsenal almost came back to bite them in the arse last season, with Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus crucial in the Gunners’ surprise title push.
If City are unwilling to let Phillips join Liverpool, their biggest foes in English football during Pep Guardiola’s time at the club, that would be completely understandable. This is where player power comes into play. The former Leeds favourite has to do what is best for his career and if he has the ambition to become a crucial player for club and country once again, he has to tell Guardiola it is time to part ways. The Spanish manager does not usually stand in the way of players who want out and it would be unfair to block an exit for Phillips.
Liverpool need another midfielder after landing Wataru Endo and rumours they are still interested in Phillips could be completely fictitious, but it still strikes us as the perfect transfer for the player, the Reds and Manchester City.
Klopp’s desperation can play nicely into City’s hands as they will obviously seek a decent fee if Phillips is to join a title rival. That is probably the only positive from a City point of view. Well, that and letting the poor lad play football again.
Fiorentina’s Sofyan Amrabat is another name that pops up every day as the summer transfer window nears its conclusion, but Phillips would be a much better fit when he gets his sharpness back.
The player we saw at Leeds is what made Phillips an England regular. He was crucial as the Three Lions reached the final of Euro 2020 but has now found himself in a position where he will be fortunate to go to Euro 2024. He was a lucky boy to get minutes at the Qatar World Cup after winning his fitness race following shoulder surgery.
Being a starter under Gareth Southgate next year might be a stretch too far – particularly with the emergence of Jude Bellingham – but a move to Liverpool gives him the best opportunity of making that pipe dream a reality.
Kalvin Phillips is far too good to sit on Manchester City’s bench while harming his England chances at the same time. He needs to bite the bullet after his ambitious move to the Etihad did not pay off. Replacing Rodri in the starting XI is never going to happen and forming a very good midfield three next to Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister has the potential to bring the best out of a player who should be an important cog in a Premier League midfield, not a splinter-collecting arse on a Premier League bench.