Leeds’ failure to secure promotion this season will almost certainly result in the departure of Kalvin Phillips – and a new frontrunner has emerged in the race to sign the classy midfielder.
A shocking run of form has seen Marcelo Bielsa’s side surrender their 11-point buffer to the chasing pack in the automatic promotion race and they now only lead Fulham on goal difference only.
United face a critical week as they look to get their promotion bid back on track with matches away to fellow promotion hopefuls Brentford on Tuesday night and then at home to Bristol City on Saturday.
And having lost four of their last five games, bad results in both those games could see Leeds end the week as low as fifth in the Championship – a far cry from the lofty perch they enjoyed at the turn of the year.
And while Bielsa has vowed to find an answer to Leeds’ current struggles, supporters know that failure to return to the promised land will see their talented side broken up – with midfield man Phillips expected to be leave in a deal that could fetch as much as £30million.
After narrowly missing out on promotion last season, Leeds had to fight off a series of bids from Aston Villa to keep their prized asset; the midfielder eventually signing a new five-year deal to tie him to Elland Road until summer 2024.
However, that deal widely contains a clause that will allow Phillips to move on this summer in the event that Leeds fail to secure promotion – and a number of suitors are now readying moves in the event that United fall short once again.
Now, according to Football Insider [via the Daily Star] Wolves have emerged as the side most likely to sign Phillips in the summer.
They claim Nuno Espirito Santo is a massive fan of the player and reckons his arrival could help Wolves raise their game another level and narrow that gap on the Premier League’s top four.
Phillips, who will return from a three-match ban in Tuesday night’s huge clash at Griffin Park, has been tipped to earn England recognition before too long, with one pundit claiming he’s far superior to both Declan Rice and Harry Winks in the holding midfield role.
And the midfielder has refused to rule out the possibility of a call-up, given he’s been watched by England manager Gareth Southgate on more than one occasion this season.
“Obviously I watch England all the time and I put myself in that situation where I think I could play in the England set-up,” he said.
“With great work you get the reward of playing for England. I know I’ve got to keep playing the way I am and one day, hopefully I can play for England.
“I’ve got a lot of Leeds fans tweeting me, asking when I’m going to play for England. I take it as a pat on the back, a compliment, it fuels me to try even harder.”
Bielsa looking to change Leeds fortunes
Leeds’ immediate concern, however, will be to reverse their alarming run of form that has left them seriously sweating on their promotion chances.
Bielsa has been open about his side’s shortcomings, but remains confident that they can recapture their previous run of victories.
“We can’t demand any more effort from the players,” he said after the defeat to Nottingham Forest. “We have the resources to beat teams in the Championship and they give everything.
“Clearly if you have good players and they give their all on the pitch, the conclusion is clear. “I have to understand that it is myself who has to find the solutions.
“I’m prepared to find solutions to turn this negative situation into a more positive one.”