Kalvin Phillips hails Marcelo Bielsa's influence and reveals England gift swap between Leeds United pair

Kalvin Phillips believes he wouldn't be where he is in his career without the influence of Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 12:00 pm
Updated Friday, 18th June 2021, 12:02 pm

The Argentine boss has completely transformed the Elland Road club's fortunes since he arrived in West Yorkshire three years ago.

Bielsa's input has seen Leeds reassert themselves as a force to be reckoned with in English football and has helped transform a number of players in the Whites squad.

Club captain Liam Cooper, ultimate utility man Stuart Dallas and leading striker Patrick Bamford are among the more high profile cases from the 65-year-old's impact in LS11.

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Phillips, though, is perhaps the one who leads the way, having helped his boyhood club back into the Premier League last summer before playing a key role in a top half finish at the first time of asking.

The Yorkshire Pirlo, as he is affectionately known, has gone from strength to strength and earned himself inclusion at this summer's Euros with Gareth Southgate's England for his stellar displays in the heart of United's midfield.

When the former Argentina boss initially landed at Leeds in 2018, Phillips was at somewhat of a crossroads in his Leeds career.

Under Bielsa's guidance, though, he has flourished ever since into a player of real quality.

Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips in action for England at Wembley against Croatia. Pic: Getty
Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips in action for England at Wembley against Croatia. Pic: Getty

"No, it's as simple as that," the Thorp Arch academy product told ITV over whether he would be where he is now without Bielsa.

"Marcelo sees a lot of crazy things that other people don't. The first day he came in he referred to me as a number four and I'd never played in a defensive midfield role. But I've never enjoyed football as much in my life."

He added to BBC Sport: "He's been a major part of my career. A major part of my life. In the last two years or so he has improved me as a person and a footballer.

"I believe that if he was never introduced to me then I don't think I'd be in this position. He's different in the way that he works. He doesn't get too close to his players. He is just very football orientated.

"He's very professional and very detailed in the way that he works. If he has a bone to pick with you he will make it clear there and then.

"He won't wait until another time or until you are by yourself, he will do it in front of whoever is there. I think that is a great trait to have. He's a very honest person."

Phillips also discussed Bielsa's delight as his England call-up for the delayed Euros, revealing the pair swapped gifts following his first international recognition last autumn.

"You could say he was excited but he doesn't really show much emotion," Phillips smirked.

"He does get happy. He does give you the odd smile here and there but I think he was just proud. I think he was just happy for me and my family. I can remember the first time I got called up, he gave me a little souvenir which was his old playing shirt.

"It was a nice moment and after my first England cap against Denmark I gave him a shirt then as well. It was a nice trade."