'I just love him' - World Cup finalist joins growing list of admirers for Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips

Nigel de Jong knows a thing or two about the demands required of being an international midfielder.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 6:00 am
Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips. Pic: Getty
Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips. Pic: Getty

The former Premier League winner with Manchester City reached the World Cup final with the Netherlands and earned over 80 caps for his nation.

De Jong reached the heights of the game for both club and country, making a name for himself as an enforcer in the middle of the pitch.

Kalvin Phillips has been somewhat of a calm and calculated defensive midfielder for Leeds United in the Premier League - but is of the same mould as De Jong, being a player who prefers to stop goals than score them.

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He was, though, handed a more advanced role for England in the Three Lions' 1-0 win over Croatia at Wembley last weekend.

Gareth Southgate opted for a three-man midfield with Phillips allowed to roam forward to support the front three of Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Harry Kane.

The England boss was repaid for his faith in the Whites' academy product in the capital, as Phillips found Sterling for the match-winning strike to kick off the Euros with victory in Group D.

De Jong was among those suitably impressed watching on, hailing the 'Yorkshire Pirlo' for his development into what he describes as a "complete player."

"I just love the boy," De Jong said of the Leeds man's abilities.

"I have seen him play for Leeds this season under [Marcelo] Bielsa and he has got it all. He has become a complete midfield player.

"We saw in the last game with England he got the international recognition that he deserves.

"He's the type of player who can break up plays. He's linking between the lines and it was interesting to see he played a little bit higher up the pitch.

"At Leeds he plays more in front of the defence as a holding [midfielder]. Now he gets a bit more freedom to go a little bit further forward - making those runs in between the lines and behind."

He added: "He's got a great tackle and good pace. He looks the part. If you're talking about a player as being undroppable - if he performs like that he is a player who will be undroppable for Gareth Southgate.

"It's a joy to see. I'm always looking at players in my position and I've been looking at him for a year now at Leeds. He's developed himself into a really good player.

"He has the potential to be a regular starter for England."