Nat Phillips was not supposed to even sniff the pitch for Liverpool this season, but he ended up being an important part of a really tough campaign. His strong play over the final stretch of the season was vital to Liverpool finishing in third place in the Premier League.
Though he will likely be a sentimental favorite for years to come, it’s hard to imagine him playing a big role for the Reds going forward. While he is excellent in the air, his lack of recovery speed is a big concern for a team that likes to deploy a high defensive line. In general, he just doesn’t quite fit the mold of a center-back in Jürgen Klopp’s system.
Phillips is coming off a fairly successful campaign that he is not likely to replicate simply because he won’t see similar minutes without another catastrophic injury crisis (though maybe we shouldn’t rule out as a possibility...). With that in mind, one has to admit it would make financial sense for Liverpool to at least field offers for the defender this summer.
According to ESPN, Liverpool are willing to do just that. Though it was included as almost an afterthought in an article about Ibrahima Konaté’s supposedly imminent signing, the idea seems to make a lot of sense.
Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Joël Matip are all expected to be ready for the start of the next PL campaign. Add in Konaté and you have a very solid rotation of first-team center-backs. In theory, you should be able to get decent minutes for all four of them with some smart rotation, and there’s really no need to keep another legitimate first-team CB on the roster.
That leaves Phillips as the odd-man-out. As the fifth-choice CB, he would only see the pitch for the odd Cup match or in the event of another injury crisis. His transfer value will likely never be higher than right now, and the value LFC would gain from cashing in on that is probably much higher than the value they gain by keeping him.
Another viewpoint to consider is that of Phillips himself. While the club and the fans may want to hold onto him as an insurance policy should all of the center-backs wind up injured again, it’s hard to imagine him accepting being relegated back to the reserves in the meantime. This summer is likely his best chance to secure a move to a club that can offer him a real shot at regular first-team minutes.
All we can do is wait and see if Liverpool truly are looking to cash in on Phillips’ unexpected success. But, when looking at all the angles, it’s hard to imagine either LFC or Phillips turning down a solid offer for a permanent transfer should one present itself.