“It’s an old gaming jersey from when he was playing that I’ll ask him to sign,” Phillips said.
“He also sent me a quick note, I’m going to have him framed, he says my hard work has paid off, but it doesn’t stop there.
Phillips’ jersey is a reminder that his rise has its roots in Rosario, Argentina, where Bielsa played and started his coaching career. When the 65-year-old arrived at Elland Road two years ago, he told football director Victor Orta that he could make Phillips one of the best players in the league.
He was a player who considered quitting football as a teenager, only to be persuaded to persevere by his mother, who worked two jobs to help her son’s career. He looked lost before Bielsa arrived and turns him into a defensive midfielder.
Working under Bielsa is like nothing else for Phillips. In his first training session in England there were possession drills, while Bielsa prefers tailor-made tactical work. Phillips paints the image of one obsessed with a presence around Thorp Arch similar to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United where the manager sees everything without always being seen himself.
“He records every minute of every training session – the warm-ups, the tactics and even the game and will just tell us what we need to do and what we need to start doing in training and in games at specific times. Phillips said. “He’s just relentless in what he does
“There’s his little office and he calls his staff when they need them, so you don’t really see him, unless he’s on the training ground and you’re doing something wrong.
“We got used to working with the translator, both as a team and me as a player. He puts you in a click and uses the translator and that’s no problem. He says he doesn’t speak English, but I think he knows a lot more than he lets on.
“He kind of pulled his hair out because there were quite a few guys leaving for the internationals. He felt he didn’t have enough time to prepare for Liverpool.