Among the photos after Sterling's goal against Croatia, there is one especially revealing in which seven footballers hug the City player.
One of them, Mason Mount, appears turned backwards, with his arm extended to call out to another colleague who is looking at them happily from a couple of meters behind.
It is Kalvin Phillips, unexpected starter and assistant to the winning goal, also the scaffolding that allowed England to unravel up, as explained by their coach, Gareth Southgate: "It allows us to play with four attacking players," said Sterling referring to Foden. , Mount and Kane.
Sterling, hugged by his teammates after scoring Croatia, with Phillips on the right.AFP7 via Europa Press / Europa Press
Phillips (Leeds, 25 years old) is a mixture of the rare discovery of Southgate and the creation of Marcelo Bielsa, his coach at Leeds, where he has played since he was a child. The coach, who lives in Harrogate, about 20 minutes from the fields where the footballer trains, had already had his eye on him weeks before the first wave of the pandemic. At that time, Bielsa's club was still playing in the Championship, the second English, but Southgate, according to what he told after winning Croatia, had decided to include it in one of the last lists before the Eurocup scheduled for 2020. It could not be then, but it made his debut with the national team last September against Denmark, before he had played a minute in the Premier League, which he had just promoted but in which he did not make his debut until four days later.
Southgate's eye had been had before in the Leeds quarry. When the team of the current sports director, Víctor Orta, landed there, it was one of the names that the academy director, Adam Undergood, pointed out to them as having an undeniable future. Then Marcelo Bielsa arrived and was instantly interested. "Much credit for what is happening to him belongs to Marcelo," says a source close to the coach. "When he sees the talent, and he sees that it is trainable, he goes for it."
The Argentine coach saw that Phillips had technique with the ball, skill in duels, also in the air, and an outstanding physique. But he also saw that it needed sharpening. With a couple of pounds less, he would be able to cover more field. But there the sweets of his mother, Lindsay, a great pastry chef and fundamental in the difficult life of the young man, stood in the way. "Sometimes my mother would not eat dinner so we could eat," he told
Bielsa squeezed him, with the double daily weigh-in (before and after training) and pushing him to compete, change habits and take care of himself.
In the Leeds that rose and finished the last Premier ninth, Phillips was fundamental, although to provide balance with some full-backs that rise a lot, he plays more backward than with the national team.
But Southgate's finding of overtaking him has also interested Bielsa, who has considered trying.
The coach highlighted his importance in attack, as well as in containment: "In the first half he gave two passes behind the high-level defense."
They have nicknamed him the Yorkshire Pirlo.
In this, the club's source also points to Bielsa's hand: "It's our style: looking for diagonals, superiorities, space ...".
Wembley enjoyed on Sunday that cocktail detected by Southgate and cooked by Bielsa in the sports city of Leeds, the way Phillips passes daily in front of the jail where his father is admitted: “He got together with the wrong people, drugs, fights, everything you can imagine ”, said the footballer.
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