Kalvin Phillips needs to move on from Manchester City - Stuart Rayner
One of the stars of England's run to the 2021 European Championship final was being given the chance to work with the best coach of his generation at the best club side in the world, playing regularly in the best competitions. Not only that, but Pep Guardiola had been a top midfielder cut from the same elegant cloth. It was hard to imagine Phillips not becoming a much better player.
Even after a debut season of just four club starts, Phillips' reluctance to move on again was understandable. Many a player has had a quiet first year at Eastlands whilst they adjust to Guardiola's exacting standards and win his trust. For the likes of Jack Grealish, Riyah Mahrez, Rodri, John Stones and Nathan Ake, it was worth the wait.
But if the penny had not already dropped, last week surely hammered the message home: Phillips has to get out of Manchester.
Supplanting the imperious Rodri was always going to be a tall order for the Leeds-born midfielder, but deputising for him was never meant to be this difficult.
Rodri's three-match suspension for an altercation with Morgan Gibbs-White included Sunday's match at Arsenal – far too early in the campaign to be described as season-defining, but certainly not one for resting players either.
In-keeping with his cautious counterpart, Mikel Arteta, Guardiola selected a defensive three-man midfield. With no Phillips.Teenage English right-back Rico Lewis and the usually much more attacking Berardo Silva were alongside Mateo Kovacic.
Lewis and Kovacic did not go the distance, replaced by centre-back Stones and the more forward-thinking Matheus Nunes. Phillips watched from the bench.
Guardiola probably has bigger fish to fry but if he wanted to humiliate Philips in public, he could scarcely have done it better.
England manager Gareth Southgate must have not known what to think. On the one hand, Guardiola entrusted 18-year-old Lewis with huge responsibility, on the other he thinks the England under-21 defender is a better holding midfielder than Southgate's holding midfielder. And Barnsley-born Stones too.
Phillips played the full 90 minutes when England set up their European Championship qualification by winning in Italy in March. Southgate will surely want him to play in Monday's return game too.
The 27-year-old played well in the last friendly against Scotland but it is one of only two starts this season, the other in the League Cup. Four substitute appearances have amounted to 77 minutes.
He is better than that. Every international appearance will get harder without a body of work at club level to support it.
Moving to City seemed like a good idea at the time but it has just not worked out. The sooner one of England's most talented players realises that and moves on, the better.