Kalvin Phillips is absolutely central to the Bielsa machine at Leeds United and it was a huge boost when he stayed last summer, with Premier League sides circling, and then signed a new contract.
However, behind the scenes, Leeds were prepping for the worst and Victor Orta tasked Marcelo Bielsa with finding his replacement.
Instead of asking how much of the possible £30m fee for Phillips he would have to spend, Bielsa watched the Under-23s in action extensively before returning to Orta with his answer.
His solution to the potential Phillips problem was 20-year-old midfielder Alfie McCalmont, according to Leeds Live.
That answer is pure Bielsa – always look inwards before looking out.
It might come as a surprise to some, especially as McCalmont wasn’t put in the side when Phillips was out this season.
Instead, Ben White was tasked with moving up from the centre of defence, with varying degrees of success.
However, Bielsa likes working with a small group of players, who have gone through pre-season with him and know his tactics inside out.
McCalmont has only made two appearances for the first team, but we’ve been watching him a lot in the Under-23s and we’re convinced their skipper is the real deal.
Leeds fans were impressed when they saw him in a pre-season friendly against York last summer. And one fan even went as far as to say that he could end up better than Phillips.
He also impressed enough to be asked to join the senior Northern Ireland squad in August.
One issue for McCalmont is that while Phillips is at Leeds there’s no way into Bielsa’s starting XI for the youngster.
That could lead to frustration although we hope that Bielsa will see him as a direct stand-in for next season and put him through pre-season in the Premier League as part of the first-team squad.
One thing’s for sure – Leeds won’t want to lose him.
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