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Pep Guardiola thinks Kalvin Phillips was the “perfect” choice for Manchester City to replace Fernandinho. The midfielder could make his full debut for City against Newcastle on Sunday after returning from injury.

Marcelo Bielsa tipped off Guardiola that Leeds had a young prodigy who could one day fit the bill at the Etihad. City have kept an eye on the midfielder ever since and spent £42m on the England international when their former club captain Fernandinho decided to return home to Brazil at the end of last season to join Athletico Paranaense.

“He [Bielsa] spoke about him three or four years ago,” Guardiola said. “He spoke about him, when he was in the Championship, it was the first time I realised Kalvin Phillips played for Leeds and he [Bielsa] spoke with me: ‘There is a guy who is really, really good, maybe not now for Manchester City but maybe one day he can play in the top teams.’ After he proved Marcelo was not wrong, [he was] promoted to Premier League and national team. The steps they have done is, for Kalvin and Leeds, credit. After Fernandinho decided to go to Brazil, the rest is history, we were looking for a holding midfielder and we thought he was perfect for us.”

Bielsa helped City by adapting Phillips’s game, after he had come through the ranks at Elland Road as a more attack-minded player. The 26-year-old was an unused substitute in the Community Shield against Liverpool before making his debut in City’s Premier League opener late on at West Ham. He missed last week’s win over Bournemouth with a knock but will be available at St James’ Park and can expect to be more involved once City enter the Champions League and Carabao Cup.

“We don’t have doubts, he is a national-team England player, makes an incredible improvement as a player,” Guardiola explained. “He was working with Marcelo Bielsa, he’s British, that helps the Premier League a lot, too. Last season he had injuries and you have to be careful right now with the little disturbances he had last week, try to avoid it in the future. I am sure he is going to adapt.

“Of course he is going to have to know some things we are doing, now is the step forward for him in that position. What I said before, September starts, every three days a game, we will need him and he will prove how valuable he is – we don’t have doubts. We know he is an exceptional person, that helps a lot. We knew Kyle [Walker] and John [Stones] for the feel of the English national team players, so he has settled perfectly and so quick.”