Jurgen Klopp has revealed that he expected Liverpool defender Nat Phillips to leave the club in the previous summer window after urging the young centre back to seize the opportunity made available following the injury to Virgil van Dijk.
Van Dijk, 29, is unlikely to play again this season as he prepares for surgery on the damaged anterior cruciate ligament in his right leg after an x-rated challenge from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park last week.
Liverpool’s biggest injury in living memory may be a gargantuan setback yet it has presented opportunities all around for some of the club’s aspiring young talent.
With Joel Matip also absent following a muscle problem, 19-year-old defender Rhys Williams made his inaugural Champions League bout as a late substitute in the 1-0 win against Ajax in midweek.
The teenager, who spent last season on loan with National League North side Kidderminster Harriers, was entrusted by his manager to perform on club football’s biggest stage following impressive performances against Lincoln City and Arsenal last month.
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And with Phillips and Billy Koumetio also in the picture for upcoming opportunities, Klopp has revealed that there will be plenty of chances for the club’s array of young talent to impress in the coming weeks.
“It’s a nice story,” said Klopp in the aftermath of Williams’ European debut. “I saw it in his eyes after the game that he was pretty impressed by that occasion.
“He is a big talent, not only physically big but is a real talent. It is nice to have him around.
“He played last year in non-league, and that makes it special.
“As always in life, when something bad happens, when the dust settles you can see the opportunities again.
“It’s all about doing the right things in the right moment. For Rhys it was his first Champions League minutes.”
Klopp also claimed that Phillips, who was extensively linked with a summer move to a number of Championship clubs, had been expected to leave Liverpool on deadline day earlier month but inevitably a transfer failed to materialise.
According to The ECHO, as many as four Championship clubs were deemed with an interest in signing the 23-year-old.
The Liverpool boss had previously described Phillips as “outstanding” after the youngster impressed during the Reds’ pre-season tour in 2018, as per Goal.
“With our situation, we have Nat Phillips here as well and Billy the kid and they are really around”, Klopp added.
“Nat Phillips we thought would be transferred, but at the last second it didn’t happen.
“We already brought him back from Stuttgart for one game last season against Everton in which he did really well.
“These are solutions for us, and help us a lot. The boys are great, and it is a big opportunity for them.”
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Surprisingly, Phillips was recently confirmed as an inclusion in Liverpool’s Premier League squad following the injury to Van Dijk.
This is a scenario that was totally unforeseen at the start of the transfer window and is something that could work in Liverpool’s favour.
Following his time in Bundesliga 2 last season with Stuttgart, Phillips has a vast of experience on his footballing CV to justify he can do a job when called upon.
After all, he certainly delivered when he was recalled from his loan spell in Germany to star during Liverpool’s 1-0 victory against Everton in the FA Cup earlier this year.
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