Newcastle, newly rich and in urgent need of January signings, have made Liverpool’s fifth-choice Nat Phillips a mid-season target – three months after signing a new deal.
When a buyer failed to emerge, however, the 24-year-old made the surprise move in signing a new four-year contract, settling into a role behind Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez.
His first game of the season came in October, that being for the under-21s in the EFL Trophy, and since then he has only played one minute in the Champions League and the second half of the League Cup win at Preston.
Despite Gomez’s calf injury, Phillips has remained a bench player at best in recent weeks, and it would be no surprise if he was considering his options for January.
Conveniently, then, the Telegraph‘s Sam Wallace reports that he remains a target for Newcastle heading into the winter transfer window.
This could put Liverpool in a strong position, particularly given Newcastle are still yet to appoint a sporting director and minority investor Amanda Staveley is currently leading transfer negotiations.
It is suggested that the Reds will have already been contacted regarding a possible deal, with Eddie Howe eager to bring in reinforcements for the start of next month.
“Centre-back is where the club urgently need to sign players this January,” Wallace notes, with Phillips able to command a “very good deal” regardless of where he features in Newcastle’s long-term planning.
The situation set out by Wallace, then, is that Newcastle desperately need to invest mid-season, but are caught between their understandably lofty ambitions and the reality that they could very well drop into the Championship next season.
Phillips could represent a sensible addition, as a player with top-level experience with Liverpool but not one whose reputation would seem out of place in the second tier.
There is a case to argue, too, that Phillips’ profile at the centre-back would suit a club playing backs-to-the-wall football, as may be necessary in the second half of the campaign under Howe.
Given Newcastle’s unique approach to the transfer window, Staveley could lean more on Howe’s connections than perhaps the club are hoping in the long term, which could smooth talks given his relationship with Michael Edwards.
Edwards and his summer successor Julian Ward will drive a hard bargain, though, with Phillips tied to Liverpool until 2025.