By George Overhill

18th Nov, 2022 | 5:10pm

Leeds United director Victor Orta hails Trent Alexander-Arnold and Declan Rice, but not Kalvin Phillips

Victor Orta has singled out Declan Rice and Trent Alexander-Arnold as key men in the England squad, as the Leeds United director of football assessed their chances at the World Cup.

The pair were picked by Gareth Southgate to head to Qatar for the midseason tournament, and the Elland Road transfer chief has named Rice as an “indisputable” pick in the Three Lions midfield, but did not go for former Whites hero Kalvin Phillips alongside him.

The duo built a strong partnership together on the way to the EURO 2020 final, but since his summer move to Manchester City Phillips has barely played, so Orta believes the second central position is a toss up between Dortmund star Jude Bellingham and Chelsea’s Mason Mount.

On England’s chances in Qatar Orta told Radio MARCA: “[They are] one of the candidates, [they have] an accessible box if [they] were to pass as first [in the group].

“As a block they have improved compared to previous tournaments”

On who he feels will be important for Southgate he was effusive in his praise for the Anfield full-back, saying: “Since Roberto Carlos I had not seen such a big impact from a [wing-back] like Alexander-Arnold’s”

And on the midfield selection he added: “Rice is indisputable in the eleven; then maybe there will be a position between Bellingham or Mount”

Moved on

Phillips is a Southgate favourite, but is lucky to make it into the squad for Qatar having played less than an hour of first-team football for City this season.

Fears that he would get stuck on the bench at the Etihad and therefore miss out on selection for this tournament had been cited as a reason he should have considered remaining in West Yorkshire during the transfer window, but they have now been thoroughly disproven.

But Bellingham is surely the prime candidate to start since his elevation to captain at the Signal Iduna Park at the age of 19.

With USMNT pair Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson, along with Welsh Fulham loanee Dan James and Denmark’s Rasmus Kristensen the only Leeds United representation at this tournament, it is only English Whites fans who will now have an interest in the Three Lions’ progress.

And Alexander-Arnold faces a battle to even get in the side, even with Reece James’ injury keeping him out, as Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier were both selected.

With England coming into the World Cup off the back of a dreadful Nations League campaign it is difficult to predict how they will do in a unique winter tournament, having reached at least the semi-final in the past two.

In other Leeds United news, Jesse Marsch’s recent reveal suggests one young talent is already headed for a January exit from the club.