THE ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ got a message from the real McCoy on the eve of the Euro 2020 final.
The following night, Leeds and England star Kalvin Phillips had to make himself watch Andrea Pirlo’s successors in the Italy shirt celebrate their Wembley triumph.
Phillips has established himself as a vital piece of England’s midfield[/caption]
Pirlo inspired a generation of midfielders with his performances for AC Milan, Juventus and Italy[/caption]
But the 25-year-old midfielder says he will use those scenes and the legendary playmaker’s kind words as motivation to help the Three Lions go that one big step further at next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Phillips said: “The night before the final Jack Harrison, who used to play at New York City with him, sent me a video of Pirlo.
“It was a video to me saying ‘good luck in the final’, and he wished me all the best.
“So that was very nice. I thought it was going to say something about Italy but no, he wished me well — full respect for that.
“I just got the video and I was like, ‘Oh, my God’.”
Pirlo enjoyed an illustrious career with AC Milan, Juventus and Italy, and Phillips added: “To have someone on the other side, on the other team, wish you well — and especially a player like that — it is always a great feeling
Most read in Euro 2020
JOIN SUN VEGAS: GET A FREE £10 BONUS WITH 100s OF GAMES TO PLAY AND NO DEPOSIT REQUIRED (Ts&Cs apply)
“To get noticed by very good professionals and people who have done everything in their career – won World Cups and Champions Leagues – it’s very special and something I’ll always remember.”
Phillips also still replays moments from the final in his head, not least the pain of seeing the Italians lift the trophy after their victory on penalties.
Phillips, 25, said: “I think I hung around quite a bit. There was me, Ben White, a few other lads. I just wanted to see what it was like to win a major trophy.
“I just got the video and I was like, ‘Oh, my God’.”
“I wanted to see their reactions at winning it and the fans’ reactions as well.
“I think — no disrespect to Italy or anything like that — but if England had won it, the celebrations would have been a lot better than theirs!
“I still think about it now, I think about what could have been if we’d won. And I can remember a chance in the game when I had a volley on the edge of the box… obviously it’s fairytale stuff but just think, imagine if that had gone in?
“But it wasn’t to be and it’s part of learning, part of being involved in these major tournaments — and we want to go one better next time.”
Barring one of the biggest upsets of all time in San Marino on Monday night, England will qualify for Qatar 2022 as group winners.
And Phillips is set to be a key figure in the Gulf state after his remarkable rise since watching the last World Cup as a fan at home in Leeds.
He said: “I can remember Kieran Trippier’s free-kick going in (against Croatia in the semi-final) and I think I wrecked my living room because he scored. Then after I tidied up, disappointed we lost.”
Phillips never represented any of England’s youth teams and made his senior debut barely 14 months ago.
But he played all but 25 minutes of the Three Lions’ Euro 2020 adventure, forming a fine partnership with Declan Rice — who had to pull out of the current squad through illness.
Kalvin Phillips is out to emulate Pirlo at next winter’s World Cup[/caption]
With characteristic modesty, Phillips said: “It’s been a good year. I didn’t expect to be in an England shirt, never mind doing this well.
“I love playing with Declan. We’re two very similar players but work in different ways when we play together.
“Declan is almost a protector in front of the back four and I’m almost a dog that goes running after people that have got the ball.”
After suffering with injury problems since the Euros, Leeds Academy graduate Phillips — who made his pro debut against Wolves in 2015 — is going the extra mile to be as fit as a butcher’s dog.
Like Arsenal star and former Nando’s addict Emile Smith Rowe, he has joined the ranks of footballers employing personal chefs to devise and cook the food they need to stay in peak condition.
Phillips said: “Some of the lads at Leeds got it (a chef) but I just like the idea of investing in stuff that’s eventually going to prolong your career and help you become a better athlete.
“I can remember a chance in the game when I had a volley on the edge of the box… obviously it’s fairytale stuff but just think, imagine if that had gone in?”
“I can eat anything, me! The only thing I don’t like is mushrooms. I hate mushrooms! I don’t know why, I think I have a phobia of mushrooms.”
But Phillips is not afraid to say that only one thing will satisfy the appetite of him and his England team-mates when they go to Qatar — winning.
He said: “The team over the last two to three years has done exceptionally well to get to where we’ve got — the semi- finals of the World Cup and the final of the next tournament, the Euros.
“We’re hungry for more. We want to get a taste of what it feels like to win a trophy, and win a major trophy at that.
“We’ve got some amazing players in this team and we’ve got a very good coach.
“He knows how to handle us and knows how he wants us to play.
“So we’ll take that information on board and I feel like — touch wood that we qualify first — when we come to the World Cup we’ll be very confident, because we’ve got no reason not to be.”