Football News

Kalvin Phillips signs for Man City: How Marcelo Bielsa predicted midfielder’s new number

By Mohamed Moallim

Kalvin Phillips signs for Man City: How Marcelo Bielsa predicted midfielder's new number

Published: 10:12, 4 July 2022

Manchester City have completed the signing of Kalvin Phillips from Leeds United for £45m, with the Englishman signing a six-year deal.

The 26-year-old midfielder becomes City’s second major acquisition this summer after the Premier League champions acquired Erling Haaland for a reported initial fee of £51 million from Borussia Dortmund.

Phillips subsequently ended a seven-year association with his boyhood club whom he made no fewer than 233 appearances for while registering 13 goals and creating 13 more. It was his breakthrough performances under Marcelo Bielsa that earned him an England call-up and to date the Leeds-born defensive midfielder has won 23 international caps.

A wanted man, Phillips was reportedly courted by the likes of Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain but he opted to continue his career under Pep Guardiola’s guidance. The loss of stalwart Fernandinho, who has returned to his native Brazil, forced City to seek a suitable replacement which consequently drew their attention in Phillips’ direction.

Nearly ever-present in the season just gone, Phillips missed 14 games due to a troublesome hamstring injury, but finished the season strong as Leeds staved off relegation and maintained their Premier League experience at Burnley’s expense. Across his 20 league appearances Phillips averaged 3 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per 90.

Phillips made the No.23 shirt his own at Leeds but has opted for a fresh start with the No.4, last worn at Man City by Vincent Kompany. And while 23 is one of his favourite numbers, there is a bit of history with the No.4.

“I’d scored a few goals the season before, so I thought I was more of a number eight, and he came in and told me straight away that I was a number four,” Phillips told Man City’s official website, recalling when Bielsa first took over at Leeds.

“He’d seen the future!”

Although he’s signed for a hefty sum, Phillips’ role is likely to provide cover for City’s first choice No.6 Rodri, who played a pivotal role as Guardiola’s men secured a third Premier League title in four seasons.

This potential lack of playing time could very well cost him a place in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the upcoming World Cup; the former England’s player of the year is expected to face stiff competition from the likes of Jude Bellingham, James Ward-Prowse and Jordan Henderson.

But Phillips isn’t fazed, adding: “It’s one of the main reasons I wanted to come to City, to improve my game in loads of different ways.

“It’s hard for me to say right now how I’m going to play a role in the team because it’s very difficult to come into a team of eighteen superstars. I’m looking forward to just getting to know the boys and getting my feet firmly on the ground and work from there.

“I did play in the Euros final and to be honest the nerves didn’t really hit me when I was playing it, it was more after that how big the game was.

“I deal very well with situations like that, I think I’m pretty suited to playing big games. I’ve not experienced many of them but hopefully this season I will do.”