Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa has likened Kalvin Phillips to Andrea Pirlo and Diego Simeone.
The combative midfielder has been one of Bielsa’s most influential performers since the Argentine stepped into the Elland Road hotseat, playing a pivotal role in the club’s promotion to the Premier League and impressive ninth-placed finish last term.
His performances in West Yorkshire have led to a first-team spot for England, where he formed an impressive midfield partnership alongside Declan Rice to guide Gareth Southgate’s men to the Euro 2020 final over the summer, where they ultimately lost out to Italy on penalties.
The 25-year-old continues to be an invaluable cog in Bielsa’s side, recently showcasing his versatility as he played in defence as Leeds’ injury-ravaged side just lost out 2-1 to Antonio Conte’s Tottenham during his Premier League home debut on Sunday.
Having progressed through the club’s academy, where he was bestowed the moniker the “Yorkshire Pirlo” by fans given his tempo-setting ability at the base of midfield, Bielsa has thrown his weight behind the comparison, but thinks a more apt reference point would be Simeone, whom he managed during his stint as Argentina boss between 1998 and 2004.
“Yes, they have things in common,” Bielsa told Sky Sports of Phillips’ Pirlo comparisons. “The area in which they play, for a start, and their understanding of the game. Like Pirlo, Phillips is a player who knows how to organise the possession play.”
On likening Phillips to Simeone: “They are both combative players, players who are comfortable when there are disputes or there is friction on the pitch. Simeone, of course, also had very good passing ability.”
Bielsa went on to discuss the overall playing style of his midfield maestro, believing his mental attributes are just as good as the physical and technical aspects of his game.
“He is a player who is a very good passer, both over short and long distances, and he always knows what’s happening around him,” Bielsa added.
“He is aware of where the opponents are when he needs to recover the ball and he is also aware of where his team-mates are once he has recovered it.
“He knows how to assess danger and he takes good decisions on the pitch. He is good at knowing which threat he needs to neutralise as a priority at any given time.
“These are qualities which can be quite difficult to notice in the sense that the players are deemed to either play well or play badly.
“They play well if they help their team-mates and they play badly if they don’t. They play well if they get the ball of their rivals and they play badly if their opponents are able to eliminate them.
“But there are lots of factors that allow that to happen in a game.”