Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips has had an incredible season so far. It became clear in the summer that new manager Marcelo Bielsa saw something in the youngster that many, perhaps, didn’t. That became even more clear when Ronaldo Vieira was sold to Sampdoria.
In pre-season, Leeds’ new boss transformed Phillips into a more versatile player, capable of playing in a back-three. Injuries may force Leeds into playing a back-three in the weeks to come, with Phillips’ new positional dexterity likely to see him slotting into defence.
It is an excellent new string to his bow and he should look at the career of Gary Medel to see what Bielsa can do for him.
The man dubbed ‘El Pitbull’ is now well known in European football for his displays with Inter Milan and Chile. The former Sevilla midfielder, who also had a spell at Cardiff City, carved out a reputation in the game for being a no-nonsense but also skilled midfielder – who played majoritively at centre-back for Chile.
This was the brainchild of Bielsa. Whilst Medel, who is now terrifying attackers in Turkish football with Besiktas, was a midfielder with Boca Juniors, Bielsa started playing him at the back for Chile.
“Marcelo has changed the outlook of the Chilean footballer, he made us think positively, always look for the win and chase games. Bielsa has not just been an influential coach for me, but for all of Chilean football.”
It became commonplace and Medel has gone on to play over 100 caps for his nation.
Phillips certainly shares characteristics with Medel, although they are perhaps not as caricatured as they are in the ‘Pitbull’.
But seeing how Bielsa adapted Medel’s game and made him a desirable asset in Europe can only give Phillips hope for the rest of his career.
Leeds United fans will just hope it helps them in the coming weeks.