Kalvin Phillips continues to struggle for minutes in a Manchester City shirt with one pundit making an incredible claim about the midfielder making a return to Leeds.
The England midfielder called time on his long association with hometown club Leeds this summer by moving to City. That move, for an initial £42m, was a record fee received by Leeds at the time. Since surpassed by Raphinha’s switch to Barcelona, the combined £97m windfall for the pair underpinned Leeds’ signing of nine new players this summer.
Phillips was a hugely-popular star during his time at Elland Road. However, with two years left on his deal, Leeds knew the time to cash in was now with talks over a new deal failing to see an extension signed.
However, his time at the Etihad has not gone to plan so far. And while competition is tough in Pep Guardiola’s hugely-talented squad, it’s safe to say that minutes have been hard to come by so far.
Indeed, the 26-year-old has featured for just one minute in the Premier League so far, coming off the bench in a win at West Ham. His other two appearances have come in the Champions League, featuring for 12 minutes last week in Sevilla.
Phillips once again stepped off the bench on Wedneday night, this time appearing for a minute of their win over Borussia Dortmund.
That means Phillips has played just 14 minutes of City’s 720 minutes of football played so far this season.
And while the midfielder has had a couple of minor injury niggles, it’s not the start he will have been hoping for in the Etihad.
Kalvin Phillips Leeds return suggestion
The lack of minutes has led to some doubts surrounding his place in the England squad. Gareth Southgate names a 26-man squad for the upcoming Nations League games with Italy and Germany later on Thursday.
The squad will be the last one he picks before the World Cup later this year. As such, it will provide a telling indication as to determining which players will go to Qatar.
His lack of minutes for Manchester City have also disappointed Gabby Agbonlahor.
Observing his latest cameo off the bench, the pundit has suggested he may have made a mistake and he should be allowed to return to Leeds.
“Shame to see Kalvin Phillips getting one minute of playing time,” Agbonlahor wrote on his Twitter account on Wednesday night (14 September).
“Can’t they loan him back to Leeds for the season?”
Star will have to bide his time at City
Agbonlahor’s suggestion is more than likely tongue-in-cheek and a playful jibe at the ridiculous options City have at their disposal.
However, with clubs having to play a hectic schedule this season in light of the winter World Cup, he will surely start to pick up more minutes soon. And his lack of minutes at City so far could be down to two factors.
Firstly, Pep Guardiola simply has some of the best midfield options in world football. To that end, displacing Rodri – one of the world’s best holding midfielders – was never going to be easy. He is and will remain first choice on Guardiola’s team sheet.
Secondly, the City boss may just be biding his time with Phillips for the player to bed in. Minutes will undoubtedly come his way as City look to utilise their squad during a run that will see them play eight times in October alone. That includes a heady run of three games in six days between October 2 and October 8.
Furthermore, there is no way a return to Leeds will become an option any time soon. Leeds have adapted their midfield system since his departure from the 4-1-4-1 formation that Marcelo Bielsa favoured.
And under Jesse Marsch, the Whites now tend to operate with a 4-2-3-1 formation. In the system, the Whites tend to set up with Marc Roca and Tyler Adams as a two-man midfield pivot.
Despite his lack of game-time, it also seems unthinkable Phillips will lose his place in the England squad. Southgate has a lot of options in central midfield with Jordan Henderson struggling with injury at Liverpool.
Jude Bellingham, however, may feel he’s done enough at Dortmund to usurp Phillips in the side and as a midfield partner for Declan Rice.