Jurgen Klopp has said that he has loved watching Nathaniel Phillips’ remarkable development at Liverpool and even put the defender in a similar bracket as Robert Lewandowski.
Klopp has worked with and developed some of the world’s best players during his coaching career. Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski is the standout name from the pair’s time at Borussia Dortmund.
At Liverpool, meanwhile, Mohamed Salah has risen to become one of the best players in the world.
However, Klopp has insisted that centre-back Phillips deserves a serious mention. The 24-year-old has largely been a fringe player who has had loan spells during the manager’s time at Anfield.
But he shot into the limelight last season following Liverpool’s defensive injury crisis. Indeed, after making his Premier League debut last October, he went on to play a crucial role in the team.
Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez have all returned to fitness this season. But while Phillips has therefore struggled for game time again, Klopp will never forget his story as a player.
“I have to mention Nat Phillips,” Klopp told Goal. “People often ask me which player made the biggest improvements under my leadership, and I say Robert Lewandowski.
“That’s probably right, but not far off that is Nat Phillips, just in a completely different department.
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“I remember when I saw Nat Phillips first, I spoke to him after the game and he’s one of the smartest players I ever worked with. I told him, ‘You know you are not the easiest on the eye, eh?’
“He improved in pretty much everything since, and he’s not playing. Life is sometimes not fair and I can’t blame him.”
Klopp admitted that the centre-back could leave in January, but insisted that he would snap him up if he had been watching his journey from elsewhere.
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“We cannot keep him forever, that’s clear,” Klopp said. “We needed him, just to be safe, for that half-year, we will see what happens in the window. He was fine doing it because he’s a great.
“His development is absolutely insane. You saw it last year, you would have said ‘Nat Phillips, oh my god, he plays in the last line?’
“People love him because of his heading but with his feet he is unbelievable.
“He’s a late starter, but his development is unbelievable. I would sign him for any club except Liverpool, because we have him.”
Phillips has only played twice for the Reds this term, once in the Carabao Cup before a cameo Champions League outing against Atletico Madrid.