Liverpool injury blow as defender ruled out until next year

With the centre-back heavily linked with a January transfer to West Ham United, it’s possible has played his last game for Liverpool.

Liverpool defender Nat Phillips hit the headlines in midweek after an outrageous Cruyff turn against AC Milan at the San Siro left Zlatan Ibrahimovic tackling fresh air.

But following his brilliant display in the 2-1 Champions League win comes the news that the centre-back is going to be sidelined for up to five weeks with a fractured his cheekbone.

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It a big blow for the 24-year-old after making his first start of the season on Wednesday.

“Nat, what a story. Unfortunately his cheekbone is broke,” Klopp revealed in his press conference ahead of Saturday’s Premier League match against Aston Villa.

“Not as bad as it could have been. No surgery, he can train pretty much from next week. But needs to be careful.

“How long it will take, I don’t know. Four or five weeks.”

With the defender heavily linked with a January transfer to West Ham United, it’s possible has played his last game for Liverpool.

Phillips’ San Siro Cruyff turn

Klopp fielded a completely new back four as the Reds headed into their final Champions League group game with AC Milan already assured of top spot.

Konstantinos Tsimikas, Ibrahima Konate, Neco Williams and Phillips lined up in defence and the makeshift unit was picked out for special praise by Klopp following victory in Italy.

But it was Phillips, making his first start of the season for the Reds, who really caught the eye thanks to his audacious piece of skill in his own box.

Running towards his own goal and under pressure from Rossoneri stars Ibrahimovic and Franck Kessié, the 24-year-old centre-back pulled off a brilliant Cruyff turn that left the pair chasing fresh air.

Defensive partner Konate was so stunned he threw his arms up in disbelief.

And the cheeky move didn’t escape the notice of Klopp either, who turned to give his bench a knowing look in the immediate aftermath.

What Klopp said about the Cruyff turn

Speaking to the Liverpool boss after the match, BT Sport’s touchline reporter said he had noticed the German turn to his coaching staff when Phillips bamboozled Ibrahimovic inside the box and asked: “Did you afford yourself a smile after that moment?”

“The situation of the game man!” Klopp responded with a laugh.

“He played an outstanding game. It’s really ridiculous.”

The Reds manager added: “I really thought we defended exceptionally well.

Nathaniel Phillips duels with AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images

“The plan of Milan was playing through the centre, through the half-spaces between the winger and our eights. We made it complicated because of the disciplined work of all of the players.

“I have to say Nat Phillips and Ibou Konate played an exceptional game, absolutely exceptional game.

“How they defended tonight was outstanding, I am really proud of the boys.”

What’s next for Nat Phillips?

The defender unexpectedly signed a new long-term contract at Liverpool on transfer deadline day after making 24 appearances for the Reds during the 2020-21 season.

However, he has played just 224 minutes of first team football this term and has been linked with a move to West Ham United.

The Hammers are reportedly looking to secure a £12 million deal in the January transfer window.