KALVIN Phillips was never going to turn Manchester City, Pep Guardiola and Erling Haaland down.
But with the World Cup less than five months away, the midfielder’s imminent £45million move from Leeds is not without risk.
Leaving his boyhood club will have been a gut-wrenching decision for Phillips.
Then again, it would have been a damn sight easier than when Aston Villa tried to sign him in 2019.
Phillips’ late nan, Granny Val, persuaded him to stay at Leeds under Marcelo Bielsa.
He has since won promotion, adapted to the Prem like a duck to water and played a starring role as England reached the Euros final last summer.
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The Whites were understandably reluctant to sell their beloved ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’.
But at 26, with two years left on his contract, his stock is unlikely to ever be as high again – even if £45m feels a little on the low side.
And when Pep’s City juggernaut comes knocking, offering a hefty pay rise and asking you to swap fighting survival for battling it out for domestic and European titles, you don’t say no.
It may pain supporters to see Phillips swap Leeds and Yorkshire for Manchester and Lancashire.
But at least they can comfort themselves that, despite all the talk, he didn’t join despised rivals Man United.
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Phillips’ Elland Road legacy is secure, so can he now create a new one at the Etihad?
Going from local hero to a small fish in a big pond is not easy – just ask Jack Grealish.
With top dog Rodri ahead of him in the pecking order for the one defensive-midfield role in Pep’s 4-3-3, Phillips is straight into the rank and file.
There are 16 Prem games before the World Cup, and Gareth Southgate will be watching closely.
Despite being named the Three Lions’ player of the year as England came so close to Euros glory, his inclusion is not a foregone conclusion.
Injury ruled Phillips out for four months towards the end of last season.
He returned to help Leeds survive on the last day before heading off on international duty, where he received plenty of flak after the embarrassing 4-0 mauling at home to Hungary.
So the pressure is on to convince the England boss he is still the one to partner Declan Rice in midfield.
Exposure to the Champions League will only help Phillips’ cause.
Yet at the same time, warming the bench while the likes of Jude Bellingham, Conor Gallagher, Jordan Henderson and James Ward-Prowse shine could prove disastrous.
Phillips – signed following Fernandinho’s departure – showed during the Euros that he can operate higher up the pitch alongside Rice.
If Guardiola goes down that route, Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva – if he stays – and Ilkay Gundogan lie in wait.
That Phillips was moulded by Bielsa will have only increased his appeal to the City manager.
A protective shield who would sit in the quarter-back position and start attacks, nobody was more important as Leeds finally made it back to the big time before claiming a top-half Prem finish.
Guardiola is a huge admirer of Bielsa, so Phillips’ comfort playing in a possession-based, attacking side should mean City is not a massive culture shock.
But a World Cup is looming and Phillips faces an almighty battle to get enough minutes in the bank and secure his England role.
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