Despite his impressive end to the last campaign, Phillips was one of the least-used players in Jurgen Klopp‘s pre-season squad, clocking just 89 minutes over three appearances.
Ahead of the new season, Phillips finds himself fifth choice at best, and his omission from the squad for Liverpool‘s final friendly of the summer against Osasuna – after also missing the draw with Athletic Club the day before – led fans to believe a move away was close.
As the first team returned to Kirkby for preparations for Saturday’s trip to Norwich, Phillips was absent again despite Klopp insisting that, beyond Curtis Jones and Andy Robertson, “all the others are healthy.”
The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that Phillips has been granted permission to train separately in order to avoid contact injury ahead of a proposed exit.
Unlike Shaqiri, however, Phillips at Kirkby for Liverpool’s photo roll call as part of the first-team squad on Wednesday.
That is no indication of his future – Loris Karius, for example, was also at the shoot – but it would suggest a move is not as close as one for the No. 23.
It is interesting that the centre-back is out of the picture at present, with options potentially opening up for him in the market due to business elsewhere in the Premier League.
Brighton have sold Ben White to Arsenal and are believed to have considered Phillips as a primary target to replace the England international, while Southampton have accepted a £15 million bid from Leicester for Jannik Vestergaard.
Phillips boasts a similar profile to Vestergaard, albeit with less experience, and at five years his junior could represent solid business for the Saints if they put the fee brought in towards a deal with Liverpool.
A lot remains up in the air, though, but all signs point to a move for Phillips before the end of the transfer window.