Following a strong showing at the U21 Euros over the summer, the hope was that Tiago Ilori could push on and secure a place in the Liverpool first team. With Kolo Toure signing an extension to stay at the club for another season, though, it always seemed a long shot.
Then, when Joe Gomez arrived and impressed—two years younger and with the added advantage that he will count as home grown for the club once he's old enough to need registering as a senior player—that long shot started to look an impossibility. Ilori wouldn't be a factor for Liverpool, and he really needed to move on.
That almost didn't happen. It took until deadline day to see any real movement, with Sunderland and Aston Villa coming in for him right at the end. The player resisted the Sunderland offer in the hopes of more stable Premier League prospects, and in the end may be fortunate that choice didn't end with him stuck at Anfield.
"It was all last-minute so I'm relieved I had such a good option and I'm very happy to be here," the 21-year-old defender told AVTV. "I can't say I know everything about Aston Villa's history, but I do know that they're a very stable team. It's always been my dream to play in the Premier League, that's why I signed for Liverpool."
In his two seasons at Liverpool, Ilori didn't make a single first team appearance. He headed out on loan to first Granada and then Bordeaux to largely mixed results, showing some promise but, with only 21 first team games under his belt since 2013, perhaps not seeing the pitch as much as he hoped to—and perhaps needed to.
Now, at Aston Villa, he knows he will be given a chance. Having a purchase option on the player for next summer means the club won't be stuck developing a player just to send him back to his parent club—they're invested in him and stand to benefit if he's helped to grow and given the chances he needs to come good.
"I'm very happy Aston Villa are hopefully going to give me that chance," he added. "I know about Tim Sherwood especially. He has a reputation for grooming young players, and that's one of the main reasons why I'm excited to be here and working with him."