Marcelo Bielsa on Kalvin Phillips' time with Leeds United as contract talks go on amid Manchester United chatter

It is only natural that football is trying to find a new home for Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 4:01 pm
Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips. Pic: Getty

Football craves transfer speculation whenever a ball isn't being kicked and when a player is perceived to be good, very good in fact, it is almost a duty for the sport, the industry rather than the game, to try and move them on to where it feels they should rightfully be.

Jack Grealish was the 2021 summer edition of this notion in the Premier League, with Aston Villa selling their prized academy star to champions Manchester City thanks to an eye-watering £100m fee.

Phillips - it seems - is required to be next, no matter how much he loves his hometown team. There is some truth to the fact that his ambition may one day outgrow Leeds.

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United have grand plans for the future but majority owner Andrea Radrizzani is always talking long-term and though the Yorkshire Pirlo is only 25 years young, time waits for no man and their trophy ambitions.

The Whites midfielder has been at the centre of intense paper talk this week following the emergence of a report crediting Manchester United with interest in his services.

Phillips has become a focal point for Leeds - both on and off the pitch - standing for everything that is good about the city and the club. He led Marcelo Bielsa's men back to the Premier League after 16 years away and has gone on to establish himself as an England regular under Gareth Southgate, helping his nation to the Euro 2020 final.

He has also been a key vocal figure in the fight against racism amid the taking of the knee movement, firming up his fan favourite status even further.

A move across the Pennines to the red half of Manchester seems unlikely given his strong connection to the Whites - though memories of fellow academy graduate Alan Smith's infamous switch to Old Trafford come quickly to mind.

Given it would undo all of the good faith he has built up with his adoring public in his home city, it adds a layer of disbelief to the story. What is undoubtedly true, is that Phillips is keen to sign a new Leeds deal. The club are equally determined to secure a prize asset to a longer deal and talks are ongoing.

Outside noise, though, will rumble on because while Phillips fails to ply his trade in competitions such as the Champions League there will always be a clamour to see him there. It is where his talent is heading.

"It depends on the player. It destabilises those who don't know what they want," Bielsa told his pre-Watford press conference whether any transfer chatter could cause Phillips to lose focus at Elland Road.

"With respect to this situation, I have two things that are very clear but before or after Phillips is going to stop playing for Leeds and in the moment and the way that he does it will convert him into an idol forever, I have a feeling, it is intuition.

"I don’t know how the way of thinking of a human being is involved and how all the things around him act that have influence. You can’t account for that and I also don’t know Kalvin intimately.

"But due to the family that he has and how he has managed his decisions since I have known him, I am sure that the day he leaves Leeds and the way that he does it, far from provoking disappointment - of course it is going to generate disappointment - but it is going to solidify his link to the club, the people and the city because I am sure he would only leave if he sees that it is guaranteed that the link to the place where he was born remains in tact.

"He will know how to do it.”

Phillips turned down interest from the Premier League in the form of Villa in 2019 following play-off heartbreak and remained with the side he supported as a boy instead, choosing to help his club into the top flight whilst dismissing the riches it had to offer.

"I think that is a question that Kalvin needs to answer," Bielsa said over any outside interest.

"Of course, for us, he is a very valuable player and we have to adapt ourselves to how he feels belonging to Leeds in the measure that his career develops.

"I have seen in him a conduct that I have very rarely seen in a player. How football is right now, for a player to decline a team above to the level were he is at due to the love of the club where he is at is not frequent and I have the certainty that Kalvin for the rest of his life is going to enjoy for the rest of his life the decisions that he makes.

"He will be loved definitively for always in the place where he was born and where he belongs.

"When you go for the money or for the evolution, you resolve a moment in your sporting career. But when you opt for the affection of your people, you ‘resolve’ your life forever because when you are loved where you are from, the possibilities to be happy increase.”