Liverpool will head into the 2021 summer transfer window with some important decisions to make with regards to squad players and their futures. The likes of Xherdan Shaqiri should be easy decisions to sell, but it won’t be as easy for the Reds to come to a conclusion on what to do with their young center backs.
Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams stepped up into roles as starters due to injuries to the excellent trio of Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, and Joe Gomez. Even winter signing Ozan Kabak went down, meaning more pressure and minutes for Williams and Phillips down the stretch of a nail-biting top-four race.
Though Phillips and Williams had their “rookie moments” and bent a little bit, they never broke. Especially not Phillips, whose performance against Burnley was a Man of the Match-quality display that included his first goal.
Liverpool have purchased Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig, giving them four great options at center back. And Phillips would thus become the fifth center back, which seems a little low on the depth chart for a guy who held his own as a starter by the end of the season. He could start at another Premier League club and give Liverpool a tidy profit.
Liverpool should not undersell Nathaniel Phillips and must be wise with a Rhys Williams loan
But the Reds have to make sure they don’t sell him for less than what he’s worth. Transfermarkt, for example, only values Phillips at five million euros. That’s a joke. The Reds should not sell Phillips for anywhere near that low, and if the Reds don’t get a good enough offer, Phillips is more valuable to them than that meager of a fee.
Williams is a different case. Whereas Phillips is 24 years old and close to the age where he would want to start, Williams is just 20 and still qualifies as a prospect at the center back position. He has obvious upside and was not bad by the end of the year, but he made the kind of mistakes that remind you he is still a way’s away from being a starting-caliber center back in the Premier League for a club like Liverpool.
Therefore, a loan move makes a ton of sense for Williams. It leads to a different sense of caution from the Reds, though. Whereas Liverpool must be careful that they are not lowballed in a potential Phillips sale, the club must carefully consider the most meritorious option for Williams’ development. Because I am sure a handful of clubs will come calling to sign such a promising center back.
The common denominator with both center backs is that Liverpool must make sure they value their center backs appropriately. Yes, they have a lot of talent at the position with the returning players and now Konate, but those two should not get lost in the shuffle or dumped off for peanuts. As we saw this past season, the idea of having an “excess” at the center back position is now a myth. It is a premium area for depth and quality.