Leeds United defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips has faced speculation over his future in recent weeks as Manchester United reportedly circle around him ahead of January.
The Red Devils are in the market for a holding player and have identified Phillips as an alternative target to West Ham’s Declan Rice, although it remains to be seen how much money they are willing to spend on the Yorkshireman.
Football Insider recently reported that Phillips wants to put pen to paper on a contract extension with Leeds and is in advanced talks with the club over a deal. The Whites want it to be signed and sealed before the opening of the January window, which could see him remain at Elland Road until the end of the season at least.
Whether it comes in January or next summer, Phillips may leave Leeds at some point in the future, given the interest in his signature, and this could leave Victor Orta and Marcelo Bielsa scrambling around to find a replacement.
Bielsa, however, could save Orta a job, as well as millions of pounds, by unleashing academy midfielder Lewis Bate in the first team. The 18-year-old joined from Chelsea’s U23 side in the summer and could be the natural successor to Phillips at Elland Road if he is able to fulfil his potential.
Bate has been capped ten times by England at various youth levels and recently earned praise from Bielsa, who said the youngster can “thread it through a needle” when speaking about his passing ability.
MRKT Insights co-founder Ram Srinivas also compared the youngster to Phillips and highlighted his key strengths as a footballer. He said:
“Bate is a well-rounded deep-lying midfielder; he’s well capable of helping a team control possession, acting as a metronome to keep things ticking over as well as being very productive in build-up. He’s very positive in his passing and shows good awareness of the spaces opening up around him and team shape, which helps his team play out of a press and also attack the opposition in transition.
Srinivas added: “All in all he’s just a multi-faceted midfielder whose biggest weakness is probably just his size but he more than makes up for it with his other qualities. He’s very well-suited to Bielsa-ball and probably capable of serving as an understudy to Kalvin Phillips.”
This, along with Bielsa’s willingness to hail Bate’s quality, suggests that Leeds could have a very promising central midfielder in their U23 squad.
Therefore, Bate could end up saving the club millions of pounds by making the step up and replacing Phillips, leaving Orta with no need to sign a replacement.
However, it all comes down to Bielsa and how he handles the situation. The Argentine coach will need to unleash Bate in the Premier League and offer him a chance to show what he can do at senior level, whilst working with him on the training pitch to ensure he knows Bielsa-ball inside and out. If he can do that, then Orta may put the chequebook away…
AND in other news, Fresh report provides key Leeds update that’ll leave Elland Road bouncing…