Marcelo Bielsa insists there is NO issue between himself and Kalvin Phillips after Leeds star was hauled off at half-time in Brighton stalemate – but warns him that no player is ‘untouchable’
- Marcelo Bielsa has denied suggestions he has fallen out with Kalvin Phillips
- Leeds boss started England midfielder in defence in goalless draw at Brighton
- He moved him back into his favoured position and then hooked him at half-time
Marcelo Bielsa has denied suggestions he has fallen out with Kalvin Phillips – but has warned his star man that no player is ‘untouchable’.
The Leeds boss started the England midfielder in defence in Saturday’s goalless draw at Brighton before moving him back into his favoured position and then hooking him at half-time.
Speaking after that match, Sportsmail columnist Jamie Redknapp said he felt there was ‘something not quite right’ between Bielsa and Phillips and there is ‘definitely a clash’.
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa (R) has denied suggestions he has fallen out with Kalvin Phillips (L)
But Bielsa maintains that his decision to substitute Phillips for Pascal Struijk was purely tactical – insisting that it would set a dangerous precedent if no player could ever be taken off.
‘It’s very difficult to imagine that a player can never be substituted from a team,’ said Bielsa ahead of the visit of Crystal Palace on Tuesday night.
‘The logic of football shows that in any game, any player can come off. I thought Pascal was better suited in the second half to the defensive midfield situation that I imagined than Phillips.
‘That doesn’t mean I was correct but I did what I thought was best. But in no way does that mean there’s a difficulty with anyone.
‘It’s never good for a player or a team to think that the positions are immovable and that the hierarchies are within a team can’t be altered ever.
‘It’s not only bad for the player who is untouchable but it’s bad for those who want to alter the positions within a team.
‘In this example, it’s bad for Kalvin to think that he’d never be substituted like any other component of the team, to think that the initial hierarchies cannot be changed.
Phillips played the first half in Leeds’ draw at Brighton but was hauled off at half-time by Bielsa
‘The position of a team is that you compete with your opponents and the players in your team.’
Intrigue over Phillips’ relationship with Bielsa has reignited talk over a potential exit from Elland Road.
But the Argentine is aware of the importance of keeping his homegrown hero, who helped win Leeds promotion back to the Premier League last year before becoming a first-choice pick for England.
‘Kalvin is an idol for the Leeds United fans,’ said Bielsa.
‘He’s a popular property with a lot of affection and we all have the obligation to look after the feeling that unites a fan with a team. The fans suffer when they lose an idol.
Leeds sit just three points and one place above the drop zone, with only two wins, after draw
‘Kalvin opted to stay with Leeds when he could have left when we were in the Championship.
‘He cleared up his position when asked about moving to the best teams in the Premier League, saying sincerely he wouldn’t accept any offers.
‘So the position Kalvin occupies is completely deserved.’
Phillips has not been able to find the same form he did last season but Bielsa denies that the 25-year-old is at his ‘lowest level’.
Leeds themselves have not hit the heights of last term and sit just three points and one place above the drop zone, with only two wins all campaign.
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It has been noted that United, famed for their high energy style under Bielsa, have been running less per game on average this year.
But Bielsa believes that is an overall trend of the Premier League this season – and he fears too many fixtures are ruining the standard of the sport.
‘The physical level of the whole league has declined,’ he added.
‘The calendar is so overcharged it doesn’t bear in mind the development of the preparation.
‘That’s why I have serious doubts over the future of professional football because it is constantly commercialised and the product is something that is worse.
‘It’s considered to sell more games but it ignores whether teams are in better conditions to offer better results.
‘It brings me great sadness how football is deteriorating. It doesn’t make sense to want to multiply the commercialisation of a product and to want to increase the incomings when the product is getting worse.’