Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp joked Nat Phillips is “not Lionel Messi but who cares?” after the defender’s debut performance against West Ham. Phillips made his first appearance in the Premier League as Liverpool beat West Ham 2-1 at Anfield to return to the top of the table. A string of injuries at the back meant Klopp had to call upon the 23-year-old who spent part of last season on loan at Stuttgart in the second tier of German football.
Virgil van Dijk is set to miss the remainder of the season due to an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury.
Meanwhile, Fabinho and Joel Matip are sidelined after recently picking up problems.
So Phillips was drafted in to partner Gomez and was awarded man of the match by Sky Sports pundit and former Reds defender Jamie Carragher.
After the match, Klopp joked Phillips is not the prettiest player to watch but did exactly what his side needed.
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“He’s a brilliant guy, smart guy, intelligent, everything,” Klopp told the BBC.
“He’s not easy on the eye, he’s not Messi but who cares? In the air, he’s a monster! He was incredible.
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“For the first game, I think everyone can imagine how nervy that must be after a long wait.
“It’s a crazy story, three years ago he was on his way to America to college.
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“Twelve Championship teams wanted him and to me it was clear he was going, and I was fine with that – and it didn’t work out for whatever reason, and it’s great!
“Tonight he was spot on, [he] helped the team incredibly.”
Klopp said Phillips was not nervous ahead of making his Premier League bow.
“The counter-press of the two centre-halves was exceptional,” the German told Sky Sports.
“Nat Phillips, wow. I couldn’t be more happy. I asked him before the game if he was nervous.
“I told him I would be. He was awake from the first second, played his stuff and had a good game.”
Phillips is not in Liverpool’s Champions League squad so is not available to play against Atalanta on Tuesday.
However, he is in contention to play against Manchester City at the Etihad next Sunday in a mouth-watering encounter.
It remains to be seen whether Matip will be available following his knock.
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