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PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester United target Kalvin Phillips "belongs at Leeds" says Bielsa

Kalvin Phillips has been a standout performer for Leeds United, and subsequently England, since Marcelo Bielsa's appointment at Elland Road.

Update:
Manchester United target Kalvin Phillips "belongs at Leeds" says Bielsa
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Manchester United target Kalvin Phillips was "born and belongs" at Leeds United, according to manager Marcelo Bielsa.

Youth team product

Phillips, who came through the academy at Leeds and has developed tenfold under Bielsa, has repeatedly been linked with a move away from Elland Road after impressing in his debut Premier League campaign. A subsequent call-up for England's Euro 2020 squad followed and the midfielder received praise once more, forming a remarkable partnership with Declan Rice as Gareth Southgate's side marched to their first major final in 55 years.

Indeed, Phillips recovered possession a team-high 45 times, while only three team-mates completed more than his 293 successful passes at the tournament.

And Bielsa, who transformed the 25-year-old into a holding midfielder after his appointment, expressed how valuable Phillips is to his side as reports of a move to Old Trafford continue to swirl. "That's a question Kalvin [Phillips] needs to answer," Bielsa said on Thursday when asked about his midfielder's future. "Of course, he's a very valuable player. I have seen in him the conduct I have very rarely seen in a player. In how football is right now, for a player to decline a team above the level where he is at, due to love of a club he is at, is not frequent. Loved definitively in the place he was born and belongs. When you go for the money, or for the evolution, you resolve a moment in your sporting career, but when you opt for the affection of those of people, you resolve in your life forever.

When you're loved where you're from, the possibilities to be happy increase," the Argentinan continued. "The moment [if he leaves] and the way he does it will convert him as an idol forever. I'm sure he will only leave if it's guaranteed the link to the place he was born remains intact. He will know how to do it."

Phillips' figures

Phillips has picked up where he left off last term, ranking second among club charts for both recoveries (49) and successful opposition-half passes (109) despite playing one top-flight game fewer than most of his colleagues. He also sits third for completed passes (236) and fifth for duels won (22) and Bielsa believes his development deserves leadership status in the team with opponents now targeting to neutralise him.

"Kalvin's passage for the national team and evaluation of his game clearly allows him to have leadership within the team," the head coach added. "When a player performs, that improvement in his performance is perceived by everybody. One of the consequences is, to do what you did before requires more effort. The opponent sees he's shining, they do their utmost to neutralise him."

Happy at Leeds

However, despite the links away to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, Phillips' agent Kevin Sharp insisted that his client was content with life at Leeds. "I can only see a positive outcome," Sharp told the Telegraph. "Kalvin's desire is to stay at Leeds and there is a real willingness from all sides to make it happen."

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