Man City have a £140m reason to be cautious over Kalvin Phillips transfer – Joe Bray
The noise is growing around Kalvin Phillips’ future as Manchester City are being increasingly linked with the Leeds midfielder this summer.
One bookmaker has suspended betting that Phillips will sign for City, while reports suggest there is an expectation on both sides of the Pennines that Leeds’ talisman will move to the Premier League champions – possibly for a fee as high as £50m.
If the Phillips who helped England to the Euro 2020 final and was a key cog in Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds machine arrives, it could be a shrewd signing. However, Phillips has struggled with injury this season as Leeds narrowly avoided relegation on the final day – albeit when Phillips was back fit – and he was far from convincing in England’s Nations League fixtures this month.
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Phillips would be signed as a back-up to Rodri in defensive midfield after Fernandinho’s departure, with Ilkay Gundogan also capable of dropping back into the holding role, and other options like Joao Cancelo and Aleks Zinchenko coming in from full-back. Phillips wouldn’t be thrown straight into the mix and would be given the chance to adapt to Pep Guardiola’s methods.
There are plenty of positives to signing Phillips. He would count as a homegrown player, he is an international with two years of Premier League experience, and potential to improve in a better team. His time under Marcelo Bielsa shows he could adapt to Pep Guardiola’s approach, while City and Leeds are not direct competitors in the Premier League, so Leeds may find it hard to stop a loyal player getting a deserved step up if he wants to leave and the fee is right.
City have done well in recent years to sign the better players from Premier League rivals, too. They signed Jack Grealish and that weakened Aston Villa, while Riyad Mahrez was another to fall into the category of signings that strengthen the Blues and takes a key player off an opponent. In a season of fine margins, getting an advantage over one side across two games could be the difference between winning and losing the title.
Nathan Ake is another player who came from lower down the league, and has eventually shown he can cut it at the top of the table. City will hope Grealish can do the same next season, and those two players are reasonable comparisons to how Phillips could adapt.
Coming as the main man in a smaller team, to one of many top players in a bigger squad isn’t always easy, especially when City’s style of play often takes a season to master at least. City spent £140m on Grealish and Ake, but both needed that first season to break into the team properly.
Being homegrown has a clear advantage, with City limited to the number of non-homegrown players they can name in their Premier League squads. So signing Phillips would ensure they can develop a new defensive midfielder without taking up a valuable space in the squad.
If they do that, though, they will have to accept that they might not get instant returns from a player who’s spent the last year battling injury and relegation. If they want to use Phillips as a like-for-like rotation option for Rodri, there might be better options in the market.
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