What are Leeds midfield options if Phillips goes to City?
Sunday, 19th Jun 2022 21:49 by Tim Whelan
Transfer expect Fabrizio Romano has taken to twitter to announce that Manchester City will soon make an official approach for Kalvin Phillips. And if our hometown hero does depart, how will that affect our plans for the rest of the transfer window?
This week Phil Hay has claimed in the Athletic that City are likely to make an offer of between £45 million and £50 million, given their need to replace the departing Fernandinho with a player who operates in a similar position. Phillip’s current contract has another two years to run, but negotiations to extend it have failed to make progress.
Our midfield maestro is now 26, and he will know that the next few years should be the peak of his career. And he might well want to spend those years at a club which is more likely to be challenging for the top trophies, reluctant as he is to leave his hometown club. He will also be well used to the Guardiola style, with Pep famously being an admirer of Marcello Bielsa.
The proposed move could well suit Phillips better than remaining at Leeds, where Jesse Marsch’s narrower formation denies him the chance to delight us with his trademark balls out to the wing. Phillips seemed to struggle to excerpt the same influence when he returned to the Leeds side for the vital games at the end of the season, though that could well have been down to a lack of fitness after being out injured for so long.
His recent issues have led to a school of thought on social media that if City make us a suitably large offer we would be better off taking the money, as long as the cash was then re-invested in the playing squad. And if Leeds are going to do the deal, we would be better off completing the business quite early in the transfer window, to give ourselves time to spend the proceeds before the end of August.
We might have thought that the signing of Marc Roca was an indication that the club had already decided to part with Phillips, given that the Spaniard also likes to play in a defensive midfield position. But according to Phil Hay, Roca has not been signed as a direct replacement, and it’s envisaged that if Phillips stays the two could operate in the same side in the way that Phillips and Rice do for England.
Roca officially joins Leeds from Bayern Munich on July 1st, for a fee described as “undisclosed” by the club’s official website, and “£10 million” by the Athletic. The 25-year-old has signed a four-year-contract. He began his career with RCD Espanyol and was a member of the Spanish Under-21 side who won the 2019 European Football Championship.
After 121 appearances for his first club he moved on to Bayern, but never established himself as a first team regular there, making only 15 appearances in almost two seasons at the Bavarian giants. So it’s no wonder he sounded keen to make the most of his opportunity at Elland Road when he spoke to the club’s official site.
“It’s a new experience and a new challenge for me. Everyone told me the Premier League is the best league in the world and the history of Leeds United is amazing, I hope we can do good things here. Junior Firpo told me it’s an incredible club with an amazing atmosphere in the stadium and that the teammates here are incredible, the locker room is incredible and for that I am very happy.”
“My favourite position is a midfielder, I like to play with the ball and to be strong in defence, always helping the team. The fans can expect me to give my everything. I am a player who loves playing with the ball, but I am hard as well in defensive duels. I am looking forward to playing here to feel the sensation and to start the season, because I think it will be very good.”
So Roca is at least talking a good game, but all the indications are that Leeds will be seeking further recruitments in midfield if Phillips leaves, even with the signings of Roca and Aaronson already in the can. We have also been linked with promising 19 year old Manchester City midfielder James McAtee, and also their highly rated 18-year-old Belgian Romeo Lavia,
Word is that City would be reluctant to lose either of these young playes, but recognise that with the strength of their squad it will be some time before they can offer him first team football. So they might be prepared to offer either of them as a sweetner to get the Phillips deal over the line, but we face competition from Southampton for the signature of both players.
As a backup our options include giving more game time to Lewis Bate, who looked impressive when he got the chance at the end of the season, and using Sam Greenwood in an attacking midfield role, especially if we sign another striker or two to give him the chance to drop a little bit deeper. And if we are going to see an influx of new talent in midfield, it’s possible that one or two established squad members could move on before the end of the summer.
Mateusz Klich is now 32 and struggle a little bit for form last season, so his first team opportunities might be limited in 2022/3, as might those of Adam Forshaw, given the return of his injury problems in the season just finished. And Jamie Shackleton is now 22, so you would have thought that if he was going to make the breakthrough as a first team regular he would have done so by now.
One thing that is for certain is that with so much going on behind the scenes, there will be quite a few more transfers to come before the new season kicks off at the start of August.
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