Nathaniel Phillips: the “Wow” performance of Liverpool star who almost gave up

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Nathaniel Phillips finally had his chance to play for Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday after being at the club for four years. The 23-year-old English center-back played his first league game against West Ham which ended 2-1 in favor of the Premier League champions.

The defender was Jurgen Klopp‘s last hope in the center-back role of the club after three of his top options – Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Fabinho were out with different degrees of injuries.

Nathaniel who almost left football in 2017 to study in the United States of America and who almost left the club this summer because of lack of game time, went straight to Jurgen Klopp‘s starting eleven and wowed the German tactician.

Though his West Ham game was his first Premier League match for Liverpool, Nathaniel Phillips made his very first senior team appearance for Liverpool during the 2019-2020 season. His debut came against Everton in a FA Cup third-round match which ended 1-0 in favor of Liverpool.

After that, the center-back was sent to Germany to play for Stuttgart on a season-long loan and only managed to play 19 times before he returned to Liverpool. His next move was to leave the club during the last transfer window but he was not able to seal any deal before the transfer window closed.

“It has been a bit of a strange one lately because it looked like I was going out of the club in the [transfer] window, there was a lot of interest,” Phillips said.

“It didn’t come through in the end and I am happy it didn’t because I got my opportunity here with the injuries.”

Nathaniel Phillips wowed Klopp

Jurgen Klopp gave Nathaniel Phillips a special embrace after his Premier League debut.
Jurgen Klopp gave Nathaniel Phillips a special embrace after his Premier League debut.

In his Premier League debut, Nathaniel gave a man of the match performance against West Ham which saw him make 96 touches in 90 minutes of football.

He also made 9 clearances, 6 of which were headers, and made two interceptions. He didn’t stop there, the 23-year-old English star created a chance and gained possession 6 times before the matched ended.

“The way we defend – Nat Phillips, wow! I couldn’t be happier”, Klopp said after Liverpool’s 2-1 victory over West Ham on Saturday. “Before the game, I asked him if he’s nervous, he said no, I said: ‘I would be!’ Because it keeps you awake from the first second.

“He was confident, did his stuff, and played a really good game.”

“I was not easy on the eye, he is not easy on the eye, both messy, but who cares? In the air, he is a monster, loves having challenges on the pitch, and today he was incredible.

“Twelve Championship teams wanted him in the summer, I was fine with him to go but it didn’t work out for whatever reason and tonight he was spot on.”

Nathaniel is a product of Bolton Wanderers academy. While he was there, he trained under the tutelage of his father, Jimmy Phillips, a retired footballer who was the youth coach of Bolton at the time. Nathaniel left Bolton to join Liverpool in 2016.