Nat Phillips has explained why he chose to head to Stuttgart on loan, rather than another club in England, as he aims to establish himself at Liverpool in the long term.
The 23-year-old joined the 2.Bundesliga club on a season-long deal in August, having signed a new long-term contract with the Reds before moving to Germany.
His campaign has been an interesting one, including a brief return to Merseyside in January and a slow build to the restart of following amid the coronavirus pandemic, with Phillips facing a series of hurdles.
But it will no doubt be a formative one for the centre-back, who before football’s suspension had established himself as a starter at Stuttgart, who are on the brink of securing promotion back to the top flight.
It was a bold decision to join the German club, rather than a side in England’s lower leagues, but one designed to aid his progress as a player in order to make it at Liverpool.
“Stuttgart was the best option. There were other options but I made it clear early on that I was open to going abroad,” he told the Liverpool Echo.
“Because the style of football and culture everywhere else in Europe in the lower leagues, which was realistically what I was competing at for a first loan, is more suited to my own development than the lower leagues in England.
“There I might have concentrated more on what my strengths were such as defending the box, winning my headers and tackles and that side of things and not so much playing out from the back and in possession.
“It’s something I knew, the staff at Liverpool knew, my dad and my agent all knew it was stuff I could develop on more so.
“I’m still defending the box and winning my headers, that is my main identity, but I want to try round myself as a player so I can fit into the Liverpool side.”
Phillips certainly isn’t out of Jurgen Klopp‘s thoughts, as his recall ahead of the FA Cup third-round clash with Everton at the start of the year proved, and his time in Germany could mould him into a more versatile defender.
The changing landscape of football, and its finances, in the wake of the pandemic could even give him a better chance of a role at his parent club.
Liverpool are among the sides least likely to be impacted by the drain of revenue when it comes to their plans in the transfer market, but it could still restrict their spending, and perhaps prompt Klopp to turn to his youth and loan ranks.
This is all conjecture at this stage, of course, and there has been speculation over an extended stay for Phillips at Stuttgart, particularly if they seal promotion to the Bundesliga.
Phillips stressed that he has “not looked that far ahead yet” but that “Stuttgart, if they want me, could be an option.”