LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 14, 2021: Liverpool's Nathaniel Phillips during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg game between Liverpool FC and Real Madird CF at Anfield. The game ended in a goal-less draw, Real Madrid won 3-1 on aggregate. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Nat Phillips accepts he won’t stay first choice – but believes in Liverpool future

Nat Phillips is realistic that he will lose his starting spot when Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are back fit, but the centre-back believes his future still lies at Liverpool.

It is an unlikely reality, but Phillips is currently Jurgen Klopp‘s first-choice centre-back.

Without Van Dijk, Gomez and Joel Matip, the manager was forced to take emergency action as Fabinho returned to midfield and Phillips was joined by Ozan Kabak as the regular partnership.

Evidence of Klopp’s overriding faith in Phillips has been shown with the decision to substitute Kabak in each of the last four games, while the Englishman has played every minute of the last seven.

The 24-year-old knows his limitations, but in an interview with the Times, he displayed an awareness of how to work around them which has given him belief he can remain a fixture at Anfield.

“I know I’m not the most pleasing on the eye – when you compare me to someone like Virgil and how cool and calm he looks,” Phillips admitted.

“By all accounts from the manager, he was the same. I’ve heard him describe himself as having a first division brain but third division feet and I think that’s where he draws the similarities.

“And I think it gives him joy to see someone like me succeed.”

He added: “I’ve been so focused on making sure I perform well and learning the areas that I need to learn in that I’ve not really taken a step back and looked at things.

“I’m still sort of living in the moment and concentrating on doing my job.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 3, 2021: manager Jürgen Klopp and Nathaniel Phillips at the final whistle during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. Brighton & Hove Albion won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With an option to sign Kabak on a permanent basis and with reports claiming a deal for RB Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konate is in the offing, there remain question marks over Phillips’ future.

But enhancing his reputation since coming into the side in January has seen the ex-Bolton youth’s chances of staying, at least as a squad player, increase significantly.

A sensible head of strong shoulders, though, Phillips has accepted he won’t be first choice ahead of Van Dijk and Gomez.

“I’m aware Liverpool have three centre-backs who are ahead of me in the pecking order all injured, so when those circumstances change mine are likely to change also,” he said.

“But for me to strive [to be a long-term starter] is going to bring the best out of me and I’m only going to benefit from setting that as an ambition.”