Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has apologised to Kalvin Phillips for barely playing him in the Premier League this season and admits he feels sorry for the former Leeds United midfielder.
The 28-year-old has featured in just four Premier League games this season, clocking up 89 minutes in total, and has seen the likes of Manuel Akanji and Rico Lewis – defenders by trade – preferred in the defensive midfield role when Rodri and John Stones have not been available.
Phillips joined City on a six-year contract last summer, moving from boyhood club Leeds, but has always been on the periphery of the side. He played just 289 minutes of Premier League football in his first season at the club, with most of those clocked up when City had already wrapped up a third successive title.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I feel so sorry for my decision for him. I’ve said that many times,” Guardiola told reporters at his latest media conference.
“He doesn’t deserve what has happened to him and I’m so sorry.
“The only thing I can say about him is I am asking for good personalities and characters and he is a perfect example. And after that I have to give him something and I didn’t do that.”
Guardiola admitted he’s not pleased with his actions and went on to credit Phillips’ work ethic and character despite it being abundantly clear that he doesn’t fit into the Spaniard’s plans.
“I’m not very pleased [with myself] and I am so sorry for him. I will not say that [to him] because it is a business and I have to be a professional,” he continued. “But if one guy behaves [poorly], I don’t care. But the way he behaves with the team-mates and everyone, I care. So that’s why hopefully it can turn around.
“And I’ve said many times, if it comes to January and he stays, I’m more than pleased because he trains really good and he’s a lovely guy and character.”
90min revealed at the beginning of December that Newcastle United are likely to try and prise Phillips away from City in the January transfer window, with Eddie Howe’s side rocked by injuries to a number of key players.
Phillips has been a long-term target for the Magpies, who are enjoying another fine season after sealing a Champions League return following a 20-year absence in 2022/23, and the club are likely to pursue an initial loan deal with an option to buy.
Newcastle’s need for midfield reinforcements extends beyond their current injury predicament – marquee summer signing Sandro Tonali was banned from football for ten months in October after breaching betting regulations during his time at AC Milan.