When Tiago Ilori arrived at Liverpool, he was meant to be the future at centre half for the club. Planning for two and four and six years down the road, though, rarely works out in football. It certainly hasn’t in Ilori’s case, either for Liverpool or the player, who is now 22 years old but has spent his time at the club either in the reserves or out on loan.
Now, though, the Portuguese defender has moved on to Aston Villa. At least for the coming season, but, if things go well, likely for longer than that. A £1M loan fee for the current season and purchase option for next summer at least mean that Liverpool will break even on their gamble on a talented youngster. And Aston Villa at least do seem glad to have snatched him up.
"I’m very pleased to bring Tiago into the football club," said Villa manager Tim Sherwood when asked about the deadline day deal to bring Ilori, a player he says he’s watched before, to the Birmingham club. "He’s someone I’ve been aware of for some time, and I’m looking forward to working with him. He’s a young guy I believe will enhance our group here."
If Ilori can make the breakthrough at Villa, it’s likely he would partner fellow new signing Joleon Lescott while Micah Richards pushes back out to right back where he has spent much of his career. If he can make that breakthrough, though, it’s unlikely he will ever return to Liverpool. And if he can’t, it’s unlikely there would be much room for him at Liverpool next summer.
For all intents and purposes, this is the end of Ilori’s career in red. Or the end of whatever it is he’s had since arriving in 2013 for £7M and making a total of three bench appearances for the senior side—an unused substitute every time. Villa’s purchase option for the player is set between £6-9M, depending on how Ilori performs, and also includes a 25% sell-on fee.
Ilori was one of the standouts of this summer’s UEFA U21 European Championships, anchoring Portugal’s defence as the Iberians managed a second-place finish in the tournament. If he’d been a few years younger and not already a Red, it might even have been the sort of showing that would have caught the attention of Liverpool’s scouting team.
He joins a Villa side that has struggled to start the season as Tim Sherwood looks to integrate a slew of new defensive signings. Having beat Bournemouth on opening day, they then lost to Manchester United and Crystal Palace before drawing Sunderland. Their next match is on Sunday, September 13th against Leicester City.
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