Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa said Kalvin Phillips could have left the club to join Aston Villa after reassuring fans that he had no problem with the England midfielder.
Phillips was substituted at half-time in Leeds’ clash at Brighton this weekend, which sparked rumors the two were at odds.
But Bielsa refuted suggestions that there is a strained relationship between the two and says the midfielder is seen as an icon at Elland Road.
And he said the player could have left the Whites when Villa tried to sign him in the summer of 2019, just weeks after he was promoted from the league to the Premier League.
“Kalvin Phillips is an idol to Leeds United fans, he is a popular property with a lot of affection and we all have an obligation to ensure the feeling that unites a fan with a team,” said Bielsa.
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“He chose to stay with Leeds when he could have left when we were in the league. He made it clear what his position was when asked to move up to the Premier League’s top sides, sincerely saying he would not take any offers.
“So what I am saying is due to his performance and his position, compared to his club Leeds, the position occupied by Kalvin is completely deserved.”
Explaining his decision to replace Phillips at halftime, Bielsa added: “It doesn’t mean I was right, but I did what I thought was best.
“But that doesn’t mean there’s a problem with anyone.
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“It’s never good for a player or a team to think that positions are fixed and that the hierarchies that are within a team can never be changed.”
Phillips confirmed how he was set to join Villa, but opted to stay with Leeds where he helped them climb to the top of the season after interest from Villa.
He said: “I was swinging towards Villa but my mother and grandmother said: ‘You have a job in Leeds to do, if you are promoted with Leeds you have been here all your life so why not a more shot to try and do it? ‘
“As soon as my mom said I never looked back and looked where it got me – in the Premier League, to play for England.
“There are things you can’t explain, but I know that if I hadn’t had this relationship with my mother, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
“She’s had so many lows to get me to these highs, so the only person I’m going to share it with is her.”
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