Following a pair of strong showings for Portugal at the U21 European Championships, Tiago Ilori has worked his way into the thoughts of Liverpool fans. The player made the switch to Anfield in 2013 for a fee of around £7M, but after spending half a year acclimatising to his new club has spent a largely unproductive 18 months out on loan with Granada and Bordeaux.
He’s still only 22 years old, but many have begun to see the same sort of writing on the wall as with past promising centre half prospects at the club, from Sebastian Coates to Danny Wilson to Mikel San Jose. All arrived with promise, spent a few seasons on the fringes of the first team or being shuttled around from one loan spell to another, and in the end were deemed not good enough to make the cut.
According to Ilori’s father, though, the London-born defender has been given assurances that he will get the chance to impress during the pre-season tour and could be in Liverpool’s plans for the coming season. With Kolo Toure receiving a contract extension, though, and Martin Skrtel on the verge of signing a new deal, it’s a little difficult to see quite where Ilori fits in over the next year.
"We spoke to Liverpool last week about Tiago’s future," Ilori’s father told Portugal’s Antena 1 radio, who also named Sunderland as a potential destination should Ilori fail to crack the first team at Anfield over the next few months. "They have said he will be given an opportunity, and will go on the pre-season tour. There are also other clubs interested, like Sunderland."
If he did head to Sunderland—likely on loan—it could see him partnered with Coates, who continues to be linked heavily with a permanent move to the Black Cats in the coming weeks. It could also, as with Coates and Fabio Borini a year earlier, be a move with an eye to finding Ilori a new long-term home in England, something that seems particularly likely now that the club has signed Joe Gomez.
The 18-year-old Gomez likely isn’t in the club’s plans for the coming season, either, but it’s hard not to see him as the club’s next great centre half hope. And a clear sign that after having watched Ilori for the past two seasons, both at Anfield and out on loan, the club believe it’s time to roll the dice on yet another young defender.