Phillips backs Xhemajli to be 'massive' for Sunderland after what he's heard

Kevin Phillips has tipped Arbenit Xhemajli to make a “massive” impact on the Sunderland first team next season.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the Stadium of Light legend claimed the 23-year-old will be “like a new signing” for Black Cats boss Lee Johnson.

Xhemajli has made just one senior appearance for Sunderland since putting pen to paper on a two-year contract on Wearside in September.

The centre-half suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury shortly after his debut against Aston Villa and it ruled him out of the remainder of the 2020-21 campaign.

As quoted by the Northern Echo on 23 April, Lee Johnson revealed Xhemajli’s rehabilitation was going well and suggested he would be ready to play a part in pre-season.

When asked by Football Insider‘s Dylan Childs for his thoughts on the Kosovan defender’s prospective return, Phillips said: “I expect him big things from him next season.

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“Let’s hope he’s fit because it is an area where Sunderland have struggled in recent times. Injuries to Sanderson and Wright meant O’Nien had to step in there for large periods last season and that’s not ideal.

“I am sure it is an area where Lee Johnson will want to strengthen in. He will want the spine of that team to be strong next season.

“In Xhemajli they’ve got a player with good potential from what I’ve heard. In many ways it will be like a new signing, especially if he is fully fit for the start of pre-season.

“I hope he hits the ground running. They have got a player on their books who could be a massive asset for them next season if they keep him fit.” 

In other news, Phillips in awe of Sunderland after plot to sign ‘great’ midfielder is revealed.