Kalvin Phillips admits loyalty to Leeds meant he had to join Man City instead of Man United


The scene might be a grand, chandelier-heavy ballroom inside Houston’s ritzy Post Oak Hotel but Kalvin Phillips is not for dancing around the issue.

As Manchester United and their interest in him is raised, the eyebrows go up and Phillips wears a look of, ‘Come on, what do you think?’ as he waltzes into a jibe.

‘Going to United?’ he smirks. ‘There was never any chance of me going there. You know my loyalty to Leeds. My family are all Leeds fans.

Kalvin Phillips rests in an ice bath during Manchester City pre-season training this week

The midfielder joined the Premier League champions from Leeds United for £42m this summer

The midfielder joined the Premier League champions from Leeds United for £42m this summer

‘I was honoured by United wanting me, one of the biggest teams in the world but, no, I had to stay loyal to Leeds and go to the other side of Manchester.

‘It’s just the way I am. I want to be loyal to the people who have given me the biggest opportunity in the world.’

In one swing, Phillips ingratiates himself to Manchester City’s fans and makes his point to Leeds too that only a small number of clubs were capable of turning his head away from Elland Road.

Despite interest from Manchester United, Phillips insists he would have never joined the club

Despite interest from Manchester United, Phillips insists he would have never joined the club

Sportsmail reported that Phillips' loyalty to Leeds ruled him out of an Old Trafford move

Sportsmail reported that Phillips’ loyalty to Leeds ruled him out of an Old Trafford move

City were one of them and here he is, a £42million footballer relishing the limelight flanked by Rodri on media duties, a partnership that could develop in Pep Guardiola’s midfield.

Week one has gone well. He is fitting in, enjoying his team-mates’ mock howling when he was beaten in a warm-up game and proudly revealing that his rendition of George Ezra’s Budapest saw him voted the best initiation singer at dinner.

Guardiola has also teased him over the four points Leeds took off City a couple of years ago.

Given the connections Phillips already enjoys within the group — Jack Grealish, Kyle Walker and John Stones in particular — any transition appears seamless.

The 26-year-old is now eager to prove himself at the top level with Champions League football

The 26-year-old is now eager to prove himself at the top level with Champions League football

More seriously, he is aware of the realities of trying to force a way into City’s starting XI. This is not going to be easy, especially in a World Cup year. He has discussed all of this with Gareth Southgate and felt compelled to test himself regardless.

‘It’s a risk and reward thing,’ says Phillips. ‘I want to come here and prove myself against the best players in the world.

‘I know there will be times I’m pulling my hair out because it is so difficult but that is what I wanted. At Leeds I was the guy who needed to play every game, at City that isn’t the case. I need to get my head around that.’

Phillips recognises that the high-energy grounding taught by Marcelo Bielsa, and how the Argentine elevated his game to levels few at Leeds thought possible, will help under Guardiola. But also that he needs to learn advanced spatial awareness and quicker scanning to evolve into a Champions League midfielder.

Phillips is also keen to prove himself to England boss Gareth Southgate ahead of the World Cup

Phillips is also keen to prove himself to England boss Gareth Southgate ahead of the World Cup

Bielsa turned him into a pure No 6 whereas Guardiola’s hope this summer was to sign someone who could do a bit of everything. Phillips can be expected to operate slightly further forward as he did for England at last summer’s Euros and for Neil Redfearn when he gave him his Leeds debut in 2015.

‘At the Euros it was new to me but I did reasonably well,’ says Phillips. ‘Everything Marcelo taught me was a lot of movement without the ball, creating space for yourself to get on the ball.

‘With City, it is moving into spaces to help team-mates get on the ball or getting in position to turn on the ball and play forward all the time. It was the opportunity to be coached by Pep. I couldn’t turn it down. Even if Pep’s only here for one more year it will hopefully be a good year.’

Leeds has been a topic of conversation here in Texas between Phillips and Erling Haaland, the pair sharing a bond over their love for the club.

Working under City boss Pep Guardiola was a key factor behind Phillips' move to the Etihad

Working under City boss Pep Guardiola was a key factor behind Phillips’ move to the Etihad

Phillips is keeping the family at home over the Pennines while purchasing a flat in Manchester city centre. He talks about the difference between City and his boyhood club and how he almost turned his TV off during last season’s 7-0 defeat at the Etihad.

‘I loved playing against City,’ he says. ‘Just to play against some of the best. It was very difficult — I’m happy to be with them now!

‘Just how technical every player is, the tempo they play at and then how they can just change tempo like that…’ Phillips clicks his fingers to demonstrate the rapid change in rhythm.

He might as well be doing that for his own career, too. Just not at Old Trafford.



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