Jurgen Klopp hails 'incredible' Nat Phillips & Rhys Williams
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has hailed ‘incredible’ centre-back pair Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams following the club’s winning end to the Premier League season, which ensured there will be Champions League football played at Anfield in 2021/22.
Klopp also said their thriving serves as an example to any current Liverpool youth player that it is possible to make the breakthrough to the first-team by working hard enough.
Home-grown Phillips and Williams only came into contention because of the injury nightmares Liverpool suffered in defence, losing Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez early in the season and later Joel Matip, but they finished the season as important players.
Both had played on and off throughout the campaign, with Fabinho and Jordan Henderson often filling in at centre-back, while Ozan Kabak also arrived on loan in January to help plug holes. But Klopp started Phillips and Williams together for the final five games and Liverpool won all of them to surge into the top four, something which had looked very unlikely only a few weeks earlier.
“These two boys, playing like that, it is incredible, absolutely incredible,” Klopp is quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror.
“That was a proper crash course in a Premier League education, and they have learned so much. It’s a sign for all our kids at Liverpool in the academy. It’s possible - it shows it’s possible...just work hard.
“These boys they are obviously not skilled like crazy, they had to work incredibly hard. And now they are proper, proper Premier League players. And that’s exactly how it can work. I am really happy for them.
“The steps they made this year, they should be really very proud of because it is absolutely a different level now, that’s really nice to be part of that. Playing like that, they just fought through it, didn’t expect an easy situation, just fought through it, and we qualified for the Champions League in the end. So let’s talk about them, how they played is incredible.”
Phillips had made only one first-team appearance for Liverpool prior to 2020/21 and, having spent last season on loan in the German second division with Stuttgart, was expected to head out on loan again. Williams, meanwhile, had been playing on loan at Kidderminster in the sixth tier of English football mere months before being thrust into the spotlight at Liverpool.
Despite their heroics in the final stretch of the campaign, it remains to be seen what chances will be available next season. Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip will return to fitness, while Liverpool are also widely expected to complete the signing of Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig.
Goal noted this week that Williams, 20, is likely to be loaned out next season instead.
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