Liverpool defender Nat Phillips was on the verge of moving to America before his rapid rise to becoming a first-team regular at Anfield.
Phillips, 24, was thrust into the spotlight after senior centre-backs Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip suffered serious injuries earlier this season.
The Englishman – who began the campaign having made just one senior Liverpool appearance – has featured 14 times this term, playing 90 minutes in the Reds’ last six games in all competitions.
Phillips has proved to be a reliable option at the back thanks to his eye-catching aerial ability and has struck up a fine partnership with Ozan Kabak.
But his career could have panned out very differently, with former Liverpool goalkeeper Andy Lonergan claiming he was on the verge of a loan exit last year.
“I was picking him up and driving him to training so we got talking and I think it was pretty much decided it was probably best for him to go and get games somewhere,” Lonergan told the Liverpool Echo.
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“So for him to go from one foot out the door, albeit temporarily, to where he is now is a great story and one he fully deserves.
“I remember in America he had a few loan options and when he was telling me who they were, I was thinking he was better than that. I didn’t think they were great clubs for him to go to.”
Lonergan is delighted to see his former teammate earning regular minutes, although it comes as no shock to him to see Phillips impressing for the Premier League champions.
“It’s surprising the way he’s got into the team because Nat would have never expected all the injuries to have happened,” said Lonergan.
He added: “But I am not surprised by how he has performed at all. I’m not surprised at how well he has done. There’s no real weakness in Nat.”
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