Men's Team

Phillips a ‘massive asset’ for City and England says De Jong

Former City and Netherlands midfielder Nigel de Jong believes Kalvin Phillips will prove to be a fantastic signing for the Blues.

De Jong, a huge crowd favourite during his three-and-a-half years with the Blues, was renowned for his crunching challenges and no-nonsense style.

And the combative Dutch star sees similarities between the playing style he adopted during his playing career and that of Phillips.

“I’m a big fan of Kalvin Phillips,” said De Jong.

“I’ve seen him with Leeds and also at Euro 2020 and he was one of the outstanding players for England.

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“The last couple of years he’s been struggling with injuries, but he is getting back to his levels again.

“I'm convinced he’s going to be a great player for City and the England national team.

“He’s still got a lot of years ahead of him. I love his style of play because he is also sometimes a no-nonsense player when it comes to tackling and not shying away from 50/50 challenges, but also being technically gifted still to be a playmaker.

“This is what you’re looking for as a manager to have the best of both worlds and he does definitely have the best of both worlds.

“For him it’s really good now to have the understanding how to get fit as soon as possible and get to his level again - and then get the confidence from the coach.

“That’s the great thing about Pep, he takes his time with his players and makes them understand that they can be important for the club.

“He’ll be a massive asset for City. I really like him. When he’s fit and when he plays, he’ll be on my team sheet every day of the week.”

In a world where the sliding tackle seems to be a dying art, with VAR analysing any forceful challenge – and often punishing them – De Jong believes achieving the right balance when tackling is key – something Phillips has proved he can do time and time again.

“You know as a coach when you buy a player like that, you know what his attributes and qualities are,” he said.

"You don’t try to make his qualities die away. That is something that he is well known for and that’s one of his strong points that he never shies away from a tackle.

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“But that he always tries to do it as clean as possible. He knows himself that it is not like ten years ago where you can get away with a tackle because you have 100 cameras on you.

“As a coach I will always encourage that - go in hard, go into challenges, don’t think of VAR, but try to do it clean and nice.

“Sometimes that comes with the territory, sometimes you go overboard, but it doesn't always mean it is a red card, though it could be a yellow.

“I would never change his way of thinking because then you change his way of playing.

“That could affect him in how important he can be for your team. I’d just let him be, just tweak the technical side of his game, but I think when you have the resilience and mentality he has, he will never lose that.

“Tackling like that is an artform and you either have it or you don’t, and he does - you try to perfect it instead of getting rid of it.”

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