Nat Phillips has claimed he isn’t surprised Liverpool have already bought a centre-back this summer – and instead of being threatened by Ibrahima Konate – has promised to learning from the Frenchman.
The Reds acted swiftly to secure the £36m transfer of Konate, who will arrive to shore up a defence that saw 20 different centre-back pairings in one season due to a catastrophic injury crisis.
Phillips was one of the standout performers of the campaign – massively overwhelming expectations when he first started getting minutes.
He started the season below Rhys Williams in the pecking order – with Jurgen Klopp keener to field Jordan Henderson or Fabinho at the back than him – but this changed as the Reds went on a brilliant run to end the season in the top four.
Phillips is not scared of Konate and felt a similar emotion in January when Ozan Kabak was signed.
“It’s no surprise,” Phillips told the official website. “Liverpool is a huge club and they are always going to have huge competition for places. You always have to compete for your place in the team.
“Even though there is a lot of competition, I see it as another person to try to learn from; a new person’s game I get to see up close, see how they play and see if I can take anything from that.
“At Liverpool there is always going to be high competition for a place on the pitch. No matter who you are, you don’t have a right to play for them and certainly not myself, having only played a handful of games when the new boys came in.
“It didn’t surprise me [when Kabak and Davies were signed]. I knew the situation the club was in, in terms of personnel, centre-backs and injuries, and we needed more players in that position.
“For me, it was just a case of when I get my opportunity to play as well as possible and do as much as I can to take it and make sure I retain the place. That’s how I approached it.
“Ozzy came in and did a good job. He helped us out massively. I don’t think we’d have finished the season the way we did if he hadn’t come over and helped us out so much.
“You want to be playing as much as possible but you have to earn it. There are occasions when you get on there by default because of injuries, but they don’t come along very often.
“If you want to play as often as possible you need to embrace that fight and play to a high enough standard to hold off such competition.”
It’s nice to hear Nat’s comments on Kabak – although the fact Phillips did so well is probably why Liverpool won’t be buying the young Turk permanently.
But this makes sense. Why spend £18m on Kabak when Phillips is already here for free and money is tight anyway?