August 20, 2022

They’re wasting no time at Manchester City or Leeds United, two clubs that have opted to bring forward their summer 2022 transfer windows. Spending is higher on one front, naturally, but neither of them are dithering. about planning for next season.

Indeed, City were so organized that the arrival of Julian Alvarez from River Plate in Argentina was expected at the start of the year, and on Monday white smoke billowed from the Etihad as Erling Haaland, born in Leeds, has finally completed the formalities for his return to England. .

At Leeds, meanwhile, they have already set aside £35million to sign Red Bull Salzburg duo Brenden Aaronson and Rasmus Kristensen, and Bayern Munich’s Marc Roca is just waiting for the club to wrap up the details of his switch. proposed of £10 million. : he is ready to come to the Premier League from a team that is ready to sell him. That deal is expected to be completed before the end of this week, with Roca aiming to arrive on Thursday evening to undergo a medical the following morning.

Roca is seen as a solution to the ongoing shortage of central midfielders at Leeds, but word out of Elland Road is that the Spaniard has not been identified as a replacement for Kalvin Phillips.

Phillips is an entity in his own right, a player who would trigger a new recruiting campaign for his position if he were to leave in this window. All signs point to City being close to forcing Leeds down this route by doubling – or tripling – the £65m they spent on Haaland and Alvarez with a substantial offer for Phillips as well.

Sources from both Pennines sides believe an offer for Phillips from City is coming, with the 26-year-old’s international commitments to England at the end of the season following Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to Hungary and his change of manager. agents referred to in the process. to take place. City are eyeing a closing deal of between £45m and £50m and Manchester are confident Phillips would push to seize the opportunity to join them should he arise.

Fernandinho leaves the Etihad aged 37 after nine trophy-laden years of service and Phillips, one of England’s leading defensive central midfielders, has been tracked by City for several months. Talks over his recruitment became more intense after Fernandinho revealed in April that he would leave when his contract expires this summer.

City manager Pep Guardiola wants competition for Rodri – ensuring the squad depth that allows the club to continue to compete on four fronts each season – and Leeds were increasingly aware of the growing interest from the Etihad in the final weeks of last season.

The landscape has since changed as Leeds survived the relegation battle from the Premier League – an outcome that was far from certain a fortnight into the campaign.

Phillips fell into the same boat as team-mate Raphinha, as a player Leeds could not hope to sell at his peak value if he fell back into the Championship and a City could acquire for less than their true market price. Sources said Athleticism that Phillips’ contract, like Raphinha’s, contains a relegation-related release clause.

As things stand, Leeds are now able to hold out for a higher fee, but City have the funds to acquire Phillips regardless – despite their spending on Haaland and Alvarez.

City have yet to submit a formal offer for Phillips and there appears to have been little contact between them and Leeds in the three weeks following the end of the club’s season.

Leeds did not enter this window expecting to lose the local boy and academy product, or at least not in the same way as they did with Brazilian star Raphinha, but then that some close to Phillips say he would never have approved of an approach from Manchester United, the hometown club’s bitterest rivals City would be a different proposition; the Premier League champions, one of the richest clubs in Europe, a team managed by Guardiola and a transfer free from the politics and poison that would surround a Leeds player leaving for Old Trafford.

City would tick the right boxes. It’s a move Phillips would be open to, and one Leeds would find hard to resist.

Phillips has been with England for three weeks and in the meantime City have held off on playing their cards.

Leeds thought it was possible that Phillips, a transformed midfielder in the Marcelo Bielsa era, could accept a new contract and give them another year, but timing is crucial.

He turns 27 in December and has a fairly short window to secure a big move. Unless Leeds tie him down on new terms beyond his current end date of summer 2024, he will never be worth more money than he is now. Although his salary is among the highest on Elland Road, it would take a substantial raise at Leeds to reflect his status as a full England international – but no effort from City to significantly raise his current salary.

City have Romeo Lavia, a talented 18-year-old Belgian, rising through the ranks, but the feeling at the Etihad is he’s not quite ready to step in and compete with Rodri for first-leg minutes. crew. With Fernandinho gone, Rodri is the only player in the team with no alternative behind him and Phillips’ role under Bielsa – a deep midfielder – means he is well placed to provide competition.

There would also be the possibility of Rodri and Phillips playing side-by-side, with the latter tasked with advancing, as he did in an England shirt alongside Declan Rice.

Guardiola maintains strict weight and intensity standards, two things his managerial idol Bielsa took to extremes during his three-and-a-half-year reign at Yorkshire. The Etihad regime is one Phillips could comfortably slip into: a possession-based model of play.

Leeds’ precarious position in the league and Phillips’ impending agency change left their situation hanging in the balance as the season drew to a close.

He has been represented by Palm Sports Management (PSM), a West Yorkshire-based agency, throughout his professional career but, as Athleticism reported in April he was considering alternatives with his contract with PSM due to expire this month. Stellar, who handled Jack Grealish’s transfer to City from Aston Villa last summer, is leading the race to secure his business, a decision to be made this week.

Although City have delayed bidding until Phillips changes teams, an offer should be forthcoming once he does.

Phillips’ intention was never to push for a move just for fun. When Villa and West Ham inquired about him in January, Leeds rejected both approaches and came under no pressure from the player to pursue them. There was also no speculation that Phillips would go at the end of last season unless Leeds were relegated, but the club know that if City call and stick to their assessment, all bets are off.

They left no doubt that by targeting Roca, they were looking for an additional midfielder besides Phillips.

Losing Phillips would mean that at least one more addition in this area is essential, helped by the receipt of a large sum in return for his separation.

The importance of obtaining this replacement right would be critical. As Leeds’ tactics change following the sacking of Bielsa and the appointment of Jesse Marsch, over the past four years the difference in results with Phillips in the line-up and without him has been staggeringly stark.

This was, in reality, how it should always be for Leeds; the balance of power in the Premier League means clubs in their position need to think hard about what is best for them. A handful of teams recruit in the most elite bracket, but below them there is a long-established pattern of revenue from the sale of valuable assets offering a chance to reinvest and, ideally, improve the team these assets leave behind.

Leeds move in different circles towards City, as Guardiola’s focus on Phillips and the coming weeks should demonstrate.

They are now waiting for City to show their game.

Additional reporting: Pol Ballus and Laurie Whitwell

(Top photo: Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)