Liverpool Transfers: Play it safe with a breakout player

Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp (Photo by PHIL NOBLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp (Photo by PHIL NOBLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Liverpool have an interesting situation developing at the center back position heading into the summer transfer window. After securing a deal for RB Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konate, who showed a couple of years ago that he can be one of the best central defenders in the world with good health, the Reds are stacked at a position that was their main problem spot in 2020-2021.

But it wasn’t a problem spot because they were lacking in talent. Their issues in central defense were 100 percent down to injuries. Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, and Joe Gomez all went down. And all three of them are among the best center backs in the Premier League, with van Dijk arguably the best in the world at the position.

They will all be back next season, and Liverpool have been mulling over difficult decisions with the players who stepped in their places. Rhys Williams will likely go out on loan, which is not a tough decision to make. But Ozan Kabak, in light of the Konate transfer, is almost certainly headed elsewhere. Given his solid play and potential, that is a tough call to make.

Yet the toughest call isn’t on Kabak, but rather on Nathaniel Phillips, who proved to be quite the asset by the end of the season.

Liverpool center back Nathaniel Phillips is receiving interest from around the Premier League

In Liverpool’s must-win matches to end 2020-2021, Phillips was terrific. He looked composed in defense and didn’t put a single foot wrong. Phillips marked Burnley’s aerial threat Chris Wood expertly and was not given trouble by anybody else. He was the legitimate Man of the Match in that 3-0 win over Burnley, even scoring his first Premier League goal.

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However, Phillips is getting serious interest around the Premier League. The list of suitors includes Burnley, who must have been very impressed with Phillips’ display against them.

It might make sense to sell Phillips. With Konate coming in and the returns from injury, he’d be the fifth-choice center back. Van Dijk is a guaranteed starter, Konate and Gomez will compete for the other spot, and Matip is going to be a key veteran backup. So that’s four very good center backs whom Phillips won’t play ahead of.

But as we saw this past season, you never know who is going to go down.

Things might be easier to navigate with a summer and hopefully far fewer COVID-19 cases, but we all know that the problems in football with fatigue and injuries are not changing much. There are still too many fixtures.

So depth is paramount, especially in the Premier League with its physicality, outrageous number of fixtures, and incompetent governing bodies.

Phillips was very good for Liverpool and showed real signs of growth. He may need more playing time and may want a bigger role at the age of at 24, since he’s entering his prime years for maturity in central defense.

But there is a serious risk in selling Phillips. How much can they really “cash in”? His value is high after breaking out under pressure, but his value may still be higher to Liverpool. Remember, this is a team that is competing for titles.

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They finished third in the league despite some catastrophes. Selling a competent center back like Phillips may not be in their best interests, and I think the lure of cash should not distract people from the value of the stability he can provide. It might be down to Phillips’ goals with regard to game time, but the Reds should not shop him aggressively otherwise.