Premier League • England

Klopp blocked Liverpool star’s exit to UCL contender, though why January transfer will quickly heat up emerges

Liverpool defenders Nat Phillips, Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk

Jurgen Klopp personally stepped in to block two Nat Phillips exits this summer, though why he could relent in January has been detailed.

The 25-year-old spent the latter half of last season on loan at Bournemouth. Phillips excelled with the Cherries, featuring regularly when helping them to achieve promotion back to the Premier League.

There had been talk of a £15m permanent move at various points in the window. However, the deal never materialised, leaving Phillips with two options.

He could either stay and fight for his place at Liverpool or explore one of the various loan routes that always seemed likely to open up.

The Athletic reported Southampton pushed to sign Phillips on loan, though Klopp was reluctant to sanction a deal.

A fresh report from the Mirror now claims it was the same story when Champions League contender Benfica came calling.

The Portuguese powerhouse were looking for a replacement for Jan Vertonghen who was on course for a return to Belgium through joining Anderlecht.

The ex-Tottenham favourite completed his move back home on September 2, though Phillips did not fill the void at Benfica.

Summer exit blocked, but situation could change

Explaining why, the report claims Klopp blocked the move due to concerns over mounting injuries in the position.

At the time the window closed, Phillips had been promoted to third-choice centre-half following injuries to Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip.

Phillips even started Liverpool’s’ second match against Crystal Palace with Joe Gomez lacking match fitness at the time.

However, Matip is back in selection contention and was among the substitutes for the Merseyside derby on Saturday. He may well start their UCL opener against Napoli on Wednesday night.

Konate, meanwhile, has been out of action since suffering a knee injury in the pre-season friendly against Strasbourg. Yet he too will be back in the mix shortly. Goal recently reported he’ll return to training ‘in and around’ the next international break which starts on September 18.

As such, the Mirror suggest Klopp may perform a U-turn on Phillips in the winter window if his four frontline centre-halves are fit and firing come January.

Nat Phillips wants regular minutes

When speaking about his long-term future while on loan at Bournemouth, Phillips stressed the need to continue getting regular action.

Despite being 25-years-old, the centre-back has just 66 senior competitive appearances to his name. Clearly, time is of the essence.

If Liverpool do enter the January window with their frontline stars all fit, a Phillips exit makes perfect sense.

The Reds have shown a willingness to sell fringe players if the right offer is made. Former transfer chief Michael Edwards was known for his expertise when securing surprisingly high fees for the likes of Danny Ward, Jordon Ibe and Rhian Brewster, to name just a few.

His replacement, Julian Ward, has continued that trend upon generating £17m for Neco Williams and £3m for Ben Davies who never made a single appearance in red. Nat Phillips may be next in line come January.