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Kalvin Phillips was the surprise package of England’s opening game of Euro 2020, putting in a man of the match performance in the Three Lions’ win over Croatia. The 25-year-old would not have been a starter on the majority of fans’ line-ups for the contest, but he rose to the occasion spectacularly alongside Declan Rice in the heart of the England midfield.
Phillips outduelled Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, and Mateo Kovacic in the middle of the park. The same trio of midfielders that turned the game in the second half of England’s semi-final defeat to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup. You would have had great value indeed to back Phillips to be the man of the match in the England v Croatia betting odds before the start of the contest. The 25-year-old proved his worth, and his performance will certainly have caught the eye of teams across Europe for his ability to break up the play and in providing the assist for Raheem Sterling’s decisive strike.
Leeds fans have known of his quality since 2016 when the midfielder broke into the first team at the age of 21. Phillips has improved season by season and was targeted by Premier League clubs when the Whites were languishing in the second tier. He remained faithful to his hometown team and was a key cog in Marcelo Bielsa’s unit that finished ninth in the top flight on their return. It will be interesting to see how far Phillips can progress.
He has certainly won over his England fans with the quality of his performances. Phillips proved that he is not only a defensive midfielder but also has the drive to surge upfield and create chances. It would have been easy for him to take a step back and offer a safe pass back to Rice or out wide to Trippier or Mount. However, he took a gamble and bundled his way through two challenges before sending an incisive pass towards Sterling to finish.
England has been crying out for a player of that calibre. Although Phillips is not quite at the level yet, it was shades of N’Golo Kante in the role that he has excelled for Leicester, Chelsea, and France for the last six years. Kante has a sumptuous talent to be able to stifle opposition attacks and then the drive to push forward to get his team on the front foot. It was evident in the Champions League final in Chelsea’s victory over Manchester City. Phillips does not possess the same engine as Kante, no player does, but he is arguably better with the ball at his feet when within the final third.
It will be extremely beneficial for both Leeds and England if Phillips can learn from his experiences in the Euros, playing against elite competition on a regular basis to round out the areas of his game. Due to his loyalty, the Yorkshire Pirlo will not be leaving Elland Road any time in the near future. The confidence taken from his debut campaign in the Premier League and the Euros may result in the midfielder acting as a spearhead for a top-six push for Bielsa and his team next term.