Few players of the modern era of Leeds United have gotten the club quite like Kalvin Phillips. A local lad who grew up supporting the club, Phillips has developed from a rangy box to box midfielder to a world class orchestrator. He played a massive role in setting the tone and tempo for the Marcelo Bielsa era. His playmaking was a key part of making sure Leeds could dominate games. His physicality and height also made sure he could throw it around a bit – a classic Leeds midfielder of yesteryear. However, it would be fair to say that things have been less impressive since Jesse Marsch took over.
Like many in the squad, Phillips appears to have less tactical identity and structure under the American. And while some could point to his iffy end of season form being down to his return from injury, few doubt that the tactics being employed by Marsch are beneficial. Still, the hope was that Phillips would sign-up and stick around for at least one more season.
Like fellow star Raphinha, though, it now feels increasingly likely that Phillips could move on this summer. The funds will likely be injected back into the team, but an inconsistent hit rate on signings makes it hard to feel confident in the coming replacements. Regardless of who Leeds sign, it is highly unlikely the chosen player will ‘get’ the club quite the way Phillips has.
Escaping relegation was not the plan for the 26-year-old when Leeds done so well in their first season back up. Instead, the aim was to push on, to fight for European football, and to try and build something meaningful. Last season has seemingly rocked belief around the club, though, and had players looking elsewhere.
Phillips expected to stay in England
Frustratingly for Whites fans, too, it looks like Phillips will not depart abroad. His form at last summers European Championships had teams on the continent salivating. Fabio Capello even claimed he was among the best midfielders at the tournament. However, Phillips is not likely to go abroad – instead, a move to Manchester City appears to be the most likely next step.
The playmaker was linked with Manchester United, an absolute doomsday scenario for Leeds fans. His loyalty to the club means he is unlikely to sign for the Red Devils, but he might still end up in Manchester regardless. At least City are good.
With over 230 senior games for the club, Phillips has more than earned his right to look at other options in his career. Still, it would say little for the quality of ambition of the project if Leeds cannot convince one of their own, a besotted Leeds fan, to stick around for one more season.
Marsch is already under the spotlight for a lot of fans. If his tactical system eventually pushes a key talent like Phillips out of the door, some fans might find it hard to forgive that transgression.