‘A combative, versatile midfielder…’
Kalvin Phillips spent the first 12 years of his football career as a Leeds United player, progressing from the junior teams through the ranks until he made his debut against Wolves in April 2015 aged 19.
He then marked his senior home debut by scoring a goal in a 2-1 defeat to Cardiff that same month – realising a boyhood dream of scoring at Elland Road.
The season after he made 10 more senior appearances before becoming a first team regular for the club he supported as a boy.
He figured 43 times during the 2016/17 campaign as he furthered his football education, and also won the Championship Young Player of the Month award for the first time in October 2017.
However, it was the appointment of Marcelo Bielsa as Leeds manager in the summer of 2018 that proved a transformative moment in Phillips’ career.
The appointment of the visionary former Argentine and Chile boss saw Phillips converted into a more deep lying player in the engine room as well as also, at times, being deployed into central defence.
He made the transition with aplomb, going on to make 46 appearances in Bielsa’s first season in charge at Elland Road, scoring three goals.
Such was his instant impact, Phillips earned a place in the EFL Championship Team of the Year as Leeds finished third in the table, only to be pipped by Derby in the Championship play-off semi-final.
In the COVID-interrupted 2019/20 campaign, Phillips was again a tower of strength, playing 40 games all told and proved a pivotal figure in helping Leeds finally end the Club’s 16-year absence from the topflight as they won promotion.
Eligible to play for England well as Jamaica and the Republic of Ireland through his family heritage, ahead of Leeds’ return to the Premier League, Phillips was then named in the England squad for the first time in August 2020.
He subsequently made his international debut in a Nations League clash with Denmark the following month, in the process becoming only the third player this century to play for the Three Lions before featuring in a top-flight game – following in the footsteps of Jack Butland and Wilfried Zaha.
That same day Phillips was also selected as part of the PFA’s 2019/20 Championship team of the season.
One of the key components of Gareth Southgate’s England squad, over the past few seasons Phillips has reaffirmed his standing as one of the Premier League’s stand-out defensive midfielders.
Armed with a formidable passing range and astute tactical awareness, Phillips combines those key attributes alongside his formidable stamina and infectious appetite for success.
Possessing impressive technique, he is comfortable receiving the ball under pressure and can also break the lines in central areas of play.
With eight seasons’ experience at Elland Road under his belt, Phillips’ career has been one of constant upward trajectory.
His inaugural season playing in the Premier League saw Phillips further hone his tactical awareness and adaptability as he went from strength to strength, along the way chalking up his 200th appearance for Leeds.
After helping Leeds finish ninth on their return to the topflight, Phillips then further reaffirmed his quality in the summer of 2021 by starting every game as England reached the final of Euro 2020.
The 26-year-old won praise from pundits, fans, and the media for a series of combative, dynamic displays as Gareth Southgate’s side reached a first final in 55 years before eventually being beaten on penalties by Italy.
Indeed, such was his impact for the Three Lions, he was voted as voted the 2020-21 BT England men’s player of the year beating Mason Mount and new City team-mate Raheem Sterling to the honour.
Though the 2021/22 season proved a more challenging affair for Leeds, Phillips continued to impress before his campaign was interrupted by a hamstring injury which side-lined him for almost four months, though he returned in the spring to help the Yorkshire side preserve their top flight status.