Manchester City have signed England centre-back Gabriel Jesus
Gabriel Jesus officially became a player for Arsenal London on Monday, while Manchester City have confirmed the transfer of Calvin Phillips. The two deals are linked in a media sense: the media services of all clubs like to cover up conditionally negative news with wholly positive messages whenever possible. In this case, Gorgas’s loyal audience was no sooner upset by Gabi’s departure than they immediately got a newcomer in Phillips.
There is also a commercial link between the sale of Jesus and the purchase of Phillips: the former was sold for £45m and the latter was paid a similar amount by the Leeds. It remains to be added that Calvin has signed a six-year contract with Manchester City, while Leeds have already found a replacement for the pupil, who has played 232 games (13+13) for the first team.
The Yorkshire club are looking to sign American midfielder Tyler Adams from RB Leipzig. Replacing the perennial midfield leader and a guy to whom the Leeds shirt has literally grown on will not be easy, but Adams is a talented guy and he could do well in England, especially at Elland Road he could be part of an interesting star-studded company: there is already coach Jesse Marsh and US national team partner Brendan Aarons. But back to City and Phillips.
Phillips will replace Fernandinho in City’s line-up
If in media and commercial terms Phillips’ transfer is linked with the departure of Gabriel Jesus, in football terms Calvin is set to replace another Brazilian, Fernandinho, in the English champions’ squad. The 37-year-old midfielder, who served Manchester City faithfully for nine years, is leaving as a free agent for Atletico Paranaense. The City have decided to fill the vacancy in midfield with the England midfielder.
By the way, Calvin has 23 games for the Three Lions, and this is all his international experience, because he has not played in European competitions with Leeds. Moreover, six of Phillips’ eight seasons at his home club have been at Championship level, with only the last two years playing in the Premier League. The 2020/21 season was impressive, leading to Calvin making his England debut in September and being a key player at Euro 2020, where Gareth Southgate’s side reached the final, in the summer.
But Phillips only featured in 20 Premier League games last campaign, missing from early December to mid-March due to a hamstring injury. He also missed two months in his debut season at the top level, and he never complained about his health in the Champions League. Either he has become more injury-prone with age or his increased intensity and responsibility since moving to the APL has had an impact, but the fact remains that the Citizens’ rookie has missed a total of almost half a year during the last two seasons due to injury.
My grandmother would be proud of me
There is a long tradition in England of ungodly overestimation of local players, moulding a star out of everyone who hits the ball and goals without fail. You don’t have to go far to find an example: last summer Manchester City signed Grealish for £100m, and Jack scored 3 goals and made 3 assists in his debut season at the Etihad, although he had 6+12 in his last season for Aston Villa.
Of course, this is a personal failure for the $100million Grielish, veiled by team successes. Jack also has obvious playboy tendencies, which rarely contribute to a football career. Phillips is a much more reliable guy in that regard. Calvin has worked his way up through hard work and fighting qualities, was very close to his grandmother, to whom he dedicated his Euro 2020 final appearance, and hasn’t forgotten about her after a major career milestone:
I want to make a name for myself and make my family proud. Grandma Val would be happy and proud of me. From day one she always told me to follow my dreams, which is why I came to this club. I am very happy to join Manchester City. This is the best team in England with an amazing squad and a coach who is widely regarded as the best in the world. The opportunity to play under Guardiola also influenced my choice. “City is a world class club with world class staff and facilities, joining this club is a dream come true.
Phillips must be ready to compete with Rhodri
As we have seen with Grealish, even a £100m player is not guaranteed regular playing practice at Manchester City. Jack spent the season as a rotational player: 22 times he appeared in the starting line-up, and in another four games Guardiola put him on as a substitute. It is clear that Calvin Phillips has no guarantees either, moreover, he was almost certainly initially destined for the role of understudy for Rhodri. The Spaniard, by the way, was second only to Joao Cancelo in terms of minutes played in APL games: 33 starts, 2,887 minutes.
Admittedly, this suggests rather that Guardiola did not have two more or less equal candidates for the position of supporting midfielder, as he likes to do, so the Spaniard played a lot. Pep likes to rotate, he needs freshness to implement his ideas on the pitch, so Phillips will definitely get his playing time, but Rodri will play in important matches. At least at first. If Calvin manages to reproduce himself and avoid injuries, he’ll have a chance to move his Spanish colleague.
However, the two midfielders are not identical; Rodri is better on the ball, while Phillips is better in breaking down players. This will be a major factor in Guardiola’s squad selection. In the game at the Santiago Bernabeu, when Real Madrid CF staged a miraculous comeback in the Champions League semi-final, Man City lacked a wicked, tenacious centre-back who could “bite” rivals in front of the net. Phillips is exactly the kind of player-function, a special agent for big matches where sometimes you have to be patient and guard the advantage. In the APL, the Citizens rarely find themselves in such situations, which is why we call Calvin the fighter who must bring the coveted Champions League victory closer.