Liverpool have unearthed the next Michael Keane

Georginio Wijnaldum, Liverpool (Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images)
Georginio Wijnaldum, Liverpool (Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images) /

Liverpool has unearthed the next Michael Keane from their broken, battered and twisted wreckage of a season.

There are always some positives to be taken from every situation, and Jurgen Klopp can certainly be proud of certain aspects of 2020/2021.

The way the Reds have performed in the Champions League – beating RB Leipzig convincingly – is one. Footballers coming out of nowhere to make first-team debuts and impress the fans is another.

Liverpool have found the next Michael Keane

Rhys Williams is one of these, and his journey from Kidderminster to the Champions League is a special one. Nat Phillips another, and the man from Bolton has certainly grasped the opportunities fate has given him.

Phillips was on the cusp of being sold to Swansea City in the summer, but that deal fell through and it’s to the benefit of the whole club that it did.

He’s now made 10 first-team appearances, and it’s tempting to think about the direction his future could take him.

Nat Phillips is in a tricky position

More from Rush The Kop

While Phillips has impressed, it’s difficult to see him remaining at Liverpool beyond the next 18 months. The injuries that led to his debut will have cleared up, and the central defender isn’t at an age where he can wait for another chance.

There are really interesting similarities to be drawn between the start of his career and how Michael Keane has made a name for himself.

Like Phillips, Keane was at another top club (Manchester United). He played only five games for the Red Devils but did just about enough to earn himself a move to a Premier League side at the bottom of the table.

That team was Burnley, who are still scrapping away on a small budget. They are great at picking up these undervalued players and turning them into something good and would suit Phillips down to the ground.

Phillips would be an ideal Clarets signing. Like Keane, they could buy him for nearly nothing (Keane cost £2.3 million), work with his strengths, provide Phillips with top-flight experience and sell him for more.

It’s a well-established pathway that has seen Keane move for over £20 million, while James Tarkowski nearly went for more than that this summer. Ben Mee, signed from Manchester City, and Kieran Trippier, are other good examples of this method at work.

Sean Dyche would be able to make the most of Phillips’ impressive strength in the air and in the tackle while negating his weakness on the ball.

If Tarkowski does go in 2021 (and his contract expires in 2022, so this is Burnley’s last chance to make money on him), Phillips could do a lot worse than following the Keane example.