Liverpool’s assistant manager Pep Lijnders has lauded Nathaniel Phillips and explained how his exemplary attitude should be one many other players aspire to follow.
The centre-back was way, way down our pecking order at the beginning of the season – so much so – he wasn’t even included in the Champions League squad – but next week, he’ll be starting in the competition’s quarterfinals against Real Madrid.
Phillips is not technically very skilled, but he dominated aerially and has not let us down really since winning a spot in the side due to the injury crisis.
Of course, Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez are all out for the season – meaning Phillips has been lining up alongside Ozan Kabak, the loanee from Schalke, the past month.
“Nathaniel is an example where determination and respect can bring you, and an example how collectively this team and staff is working,” Lijnders told Liverpoolfc.com.
“He puts his head where other players don’t put their feet. He has a heart like a lion. Probably if I need to survive in a jungle, the first two people I’d choose are Nathaniel and Millie!
“It’s not the first time this will happen in our club and not the last, for sure. The passion, the ambition, the love for the game will always make or break you.
“Luckily, we have many stories like that already. The willpower and character was the base of many of our boys to win with us. That gives me confidence that we will be back.”
Lijnders also spoke about Kabak – who is now trying desperately to earn a permanent Anfield switch and is essentially auditioning to do so through his performances until the summer.
“Ozan is a big talent, so much progression is still possible. He adapted fantastically inside our club from a context like Schalke and had an immediate impact with Liverpool FC,” the Dutchman said.
With Ibrahima Konate a target to come in and compete at centre-back as well, Liverpool’s options next season will likely be far more plentiful than they were this.
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With defensive reinforcements and the return of the world’s best, van Dijk, we imagine the Reds will get themselves back on track.
But this season isn’t a write-off. If we can get past Real Madrid, it’s either Chelsea or FC Porto for a spot in the Final!