The Borussia Dortmund teenager can play in pretty much every midfield position from the most defensive to the most attacking, and was even used wide on the right of a midfield four by previous club Birmingham City.
He impressed in England’s midweek friendly win over Ivory Coast in what looked like the No 10 role in a 4-2-3-1, but Southgate insisted was actually the left of a midfield three in a 4-3-3.
But eager not to overhype the youngster, Southgate stressed at this stage he does not have the qualities to supplant the three men used to hold England’s midfield together – Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson and Phillips.
“He pressed as a 10 but he wasn’t playing as a 10 and he won’t be a 10, he’ll be a really powerful attacking eight (box-to-box midfielder) with the ability to get forward and link as he did on Tuesday,” explained Southgate after Bellingham hit a post in an exciting performance.
“He might end up being able to play one deeper as well but at the moment he’s young and he wants to go and press and that takes him out of the defensive positions a little bit too early so you have to give him his head.
“It’s like Conor Gallagher, they want to go and press and so they’re not at the moment going to have the stability to play deeper as one of double pivot.
“You could do it in a 4-3-3 if you let one of them go earlier but the likes of Rice, Henderson and Phillips have that tactical awareness that is going to be important.”
Phillips missed the friendly with the hamstring injury that has kept him out since December, but is expected to return for Leeds at home to Southampton on Saturday.
Phillips was one of the players of last summer’s European Championship and Southgate’s conservative nature means he likes the security of two central midfielders whose primary function is defensive. Like Rice, Phillips offers more than just that, having been developed by Marcelo Bielsa as a player who starts as well as stops attacks.