Kalvin Phillips was one of those players who saw very little football action in December even after being selected for his national squad.
Taken as a squad player, minutes were always going to be few and far in between for the 27-year-old midfielder just returning from injury.
Gareth Southgate instead preferred a midfield of Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham and Jordan Henderson, which left Kalvin Phillips relegated to warming the bench with a measly 40 minutes of pitch time in Qatar.
His team though, had a somewhat decent tournament, all in all, ending the campaign at the quarter-final stage to eventual runner-up France.
With so little playing time on the international stage, you would think that the player would be itching to get back on the field for Manchester City and play some meaningful football for his club.
Alas, that was not the case with the midfielder.
Returning from national duty, Kalvin Phillips did not arrive in the condition expected of him by his manager Pep Guardiola and his staff.
Pep criticised him last week, stating, “He’s not injured – he arrived overweight. I don’t know [why]. He didn’t arrive in the condition to do training sessions and to play”.
Disappointing and unprofessional indeed.
His lack of training meant he spent the whole 90 of the first game of part 2 of the Premier League on the bench, with his team winning 3-1 against his ex-team Leeds United.
At one point in the game, Phillips was on the touchline warming up, with Pep perhaps considering bringing him on but ultimately choosing not to do so.
While warming up, Leeds United supporters made sure they made their voice heard by serenading the player with chants like “Kalvin Phillips – he eats what he wants” and “You’re too fat to play for Leeds”.
Thankfully though, the midfielder responded with a smile and a thumbs up, which led the crowd to quickly change stance and appreciate the player instead, with the “Yorkshire Pirlo” chant ringing in praise of Kalvin. It was a phrase commonly heard at Elland Road when Phillips played for the club and made his name in the sport.
After the victory, Pep was asked about Kalvin and him being overweight in the post-match conference.
His response was, well, puzzling.
Pep said, “He has the perfect body now – so sexy”. Not something you hear from a manager often. Asked whether he will be fit to play over the weekend, Pep simply responded, “We’ll see”.
Guardiola then went on to explain what he expects Kalvin to do and claimed that he will play “sooner or later”.
But it was the initial part of the answer that caught the attention of many. Why exactly did Pep respond the way he did?
Alan Shearer, presenting on Amazon Prime hypothesized that it may have been to embarrass him and that maybe Pep used that platform to fire shots at the player and express his disappointment.
If the goal was indeed that, then I am sure Kalvin has heard him loud and clear, as it is pretty obvious from the video clip that Pep was giving a tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic response to the interviewer.
The ball is now well and truly in Phillips’s court and it is up to him to get back in shape as quickly as possible. Pep is an unforgiving manager and with the winter transfer window looming large, Kalvin cannot risk snoozing and losing.