'He can rat about' - Kalvin Phillips ponders similarities to present day Italy star and makes Declan Rice prediction
Leeds United star Kalvin Phillips says he is the dog that chases after people alongside Declan Rice in England's midfield - and one who is a huge fan of a particular current Italy midfielder.
Philips and West Ham star Rice have formed a strong partnership at the heart of the Three Lions midfield, Phillips having rapidly amassed 18 caps for his country having only made his international debut last September.
Gareth Southgate's Euro 2020 runners-up are now on the verge of sealing their qualification spot for next year's World Cup, needing just a point from Monday night's Group I finale against hosts San Marino to seal their flight to Qatar.
England are approaching the contest following Friday night's 5-0 romp at home to Albania in which Phillips bagged his 18th cap for his country but this time alongside Jordan Henderson in the middle of park.
Rice has withdrawn from the current squad due to illness and Phillips has spoken glowingly about his blossoming partnership with the 22-year-old Hammers star who Phillips says will only get better.
"I love playing with Declan," Phillips told PA Sport.
"We're two very similar players but work in different ways when we play together.
"Declan is almost a protector in front of the back four and I'm almost a dog that goes running after people that have got the ball.
"Declan is a very good player and you can see what he's done this season with West Ham, the way he's playing.
"He's only going to get better and I'm very happy for him."
Phillips has earned the nickname of the Yorkshire Pirlo as a nod to Italy's former World Cup winner Andrea Pirlo's brilliance in the middle of the park.
Rice, says Phillips, is maybe more like another former Italian star in Gennaro Gattuso.
But these days it is the Azzurri's Paris Saint-Germain star Marco Verratti whom Phillips is particularly keen on.
The Whites ace was unsuccessful in his bid to take Verratti's shirt after the Euros and said: "I knew it would be hard to get someone's shirt after that.
"I did ask for Verratti's.
"I've always loved him and think he's an exceptional player.
"Obviously, he might have wanted to keep it as well as a souvenir for himself. There's no hard feelings on that one.
"I don't know whether I'm a similar kind of player to Verratti. I like getting stuck in. I just think when I watch him, the way he controls the game and if he needs to rat about, he can rat about.
"He's very physical. He's not very tall - I don't know how tall he is but he's quite short - but he's very physical and he gets into the game really quick and gets stuck in, which I like."
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Thank you Laura Collins