Nat Phillips becomes worth a lot more to Liverpool should the Reds fail to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League. The centre-back is in a strange position.
Liverpool’s injury crisis decimated them this season. They lost all three of their senior centre-backs to season-ending injuries before the halfway point.
That’s left them relying on players they’d really rather not rely on – wildly inexperienced defenders, some of whom don’t even know their gameplan.
Right now, though, there is one clear ‘leader’ in their selection. Nat Phillips is currently worth his weight in gold as he puts in some very promising performances.
This is a player who had never played top flight football before this year. Now he’s seeing off RB Leipzig in a Champions League knockout tie.
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But as the Reds handle their injury crisis, a strange situation emerges. Phillips actually becomes more valuable if Liverpool don’t make top four.
Liverpool can’t go into next season with three centre-backs again. We see how that can end and it isn’t pretty.
Fortunately, that’s easy to solve. They can sign someone new or even just persist with Ozan Kabak – they have the option to keep him permanently for £18m.
Entering that transfer market becomes difficult, however, if they fail to make the Champions League for next season. And there’s a real possibility of that.
Liverpool are currently seven points off fourth and in horrendous league form. It doesn’t feel likely that they’re in next year’s competition unless they win it this year.
The effects of that are obvious – the club doesn’t look as good to potential signings and, more importantly, they have less money. And that’s where Phillips come in.
In that situation, the best-case scenario is undoubtedly that Phillips shines over the rest of his season, proves his worth as a Premier League defender, and takes the fourth senior spot.
As that would mean Liverpool don’t need to sign a centre-back. Instead, they can divert their now-limited funds to other positions.
They’ll likely want a new goal-threat, after all. Maybe a replacement for Gini Wijnaldum, should he leave at the end of his contract.
This is all less of an issue if they have Champions League income. Without it, though, Phillips becomes worth a lot more as a free and risk-free option.