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Tiago Ilori: Liverpool's Wonderkid Is Faster Than Ronaldo & Nani Says Portuguese Expert

by Stephen Gillett
5 September 2013 19 Comments

Good on the air, quick and classy on the ball, it's no wonder Liverpool have signed the elegant centreback Tiago Ilori.


Tiago Ilori: Portuguese Expert On Liverpool’s Defensive Wonderkid…

Prior to Jesualdo Ferreira’s appointment as Sporting coach in January, the Lisbon club were enduring one of their worst seasons in recent memory. The club seemed lost: boardroom in-fighting, a managerial merry-go-round and under-performing players shorn of confidence painting the picture of a club bent on self-destruction.

Fortunately for Sporting, who with Porto and Benfica are considered one of the ‘Big Three’ clubs in Portugal, they have their world-renowned academy to fall back on when times are tough.

Where previous managers Sa Pinto and Frankie Vercautern had trusted an under-performing established order, Ferreira placed his faith in the next font of talent bubbling away in the youth ranks. Given the academy’s track record of producing the likes of Luis Figo, Ricardo Quaresma, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, this was perhaps less of a gamble than it would be at most clubs.

Out of the shadows stepped the likes of England youth international Eric Dier, winger Bruma and the colt-like figure of young defender Tiago Ilori.

Previously unknown to anyone but those following Sporting’s youngsters progress in the Under-19 NextGen series, the hotly-tipped trio quickly made good on their promise and helped the club string a series of impressive results together. Sporting’s poor season now has a silver lining.

Interest in Ilori and his young compadres has skyrocketed – with Portuguese football agents (not associated with the players) speculating, in the soccer daily Record, that their value has quadrupled over recent months. Taking the mean of the agents’ valuations, bidding should now start at €8million for Dier, a cool €11million for Bruma and €7.5million for Ilori.

So, turning our attention purely to centre-back Ilori – is he the real deal?

Born in London to a Nigerian father and Portuguese mother, Ilori joined Sporting’s youth ranks in 2006 and been on their books ever since; though he did spend the 2007-08 season on loan at Estoril

Much as Sporting’s season has blossomed, so has the 20-year-old with each game he has played for the Green-and-Whites this term.

Although he actually made his Sporting debut back in 2011, Ilori’s first appearance this campaign came in February against struggling Gil Vicente. Ilori marked the occasion by scoring a header, but – although his potential was obvious – he looked raw and a little nervy: a basic mistake also costing his side a goal.


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He has since grown in stature, however, and was particularly impressive in Sporting’s vibrant display, albeit in defeat, against champions-elect Benfica last season. A tall and slender defender, whose gait has been compared with Raphael Varane at Real Madrid, it is Ilori’s speed that really marks him out as a prospect.

Ilori is so quick that he has reportedly broken Sporting speed records in training, even surpassing results set by Ronaldo and Nani during their formative years at the club.

Allied to his pace, Ilori has good aerial ability and – unsurprising given that he started his career as a striker – a decent touch and range of passing. Beyond his physical attributes, Ilori appears to have a steady temperament and the versatility to play anywhere across the back four.

Sporting have been quick to recognise Ilori’s development and, in March, announced that they had extended the player’s contract (which includes a buy-out clause) until 2015.

Portuguese journalist and Sporting expert Tom Kundert believes Os Leaos were wise to do so and that Ilori is a genuine prospect.

“Ilori was thrown in at the deep end and looked a bit nervous. However, he has got better and better and looks like a classy centre-back, rather than a ‘Rambo’ type. More Ricardo Carvalho than John Terry, you could say,” explains Kundert.

Beyond his obvious inexperience, which only games will remedy, perhaps the only real question mark currently against Ilori surrounds his physicality. A classy operator and reader of the game, there are doubts regarding how Ilori would handle a ‘handful’ of a striker in the mould of an Andy Carroll.

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Papa Oscar 10:22 am, 16-May-2013

Not sure LFC will bid enough to keep him out of PSG's clutches. It may need a deal involving one of our youth players (maybe a return for Teixera?) or maybe a swap involving Coates. In any event, I think - from what you have said - that he would be a good acquisition.

Oliver 1:22 pm, 16-May-2013

You are welcome onboard, lad. You will never walk alone. Would you also like to play for your fatherland, Nigeria?

King 1:04 pm, 17-May-2013

@Papa Oscar are you kidding me? return Teixeira? that is one of the brightest players in our under 21s for crying out loud. You obviously dont have clue about LFC.

ricardo 12:03 pm, 11-Jun-2013

@Oliver he plays for the Portugal youth squad

Julius Ilori 5:09 pm, 25-Jun-2013

His "Fatherland" is England,matey!!.....TIAGO would play for EITHER Portugal or England where he was born...;-)..

Zanz Kedah 4:00 pm, 23-Aug-2013

Finaly B.Rodgers says the true story about LFC situation.LFC is not rich clubs. This summer LFC not able to pay high fee for target players and many of them are missing to anothers clubs.John Henry must release LFC to another megarich owner or company.FSG only want a victory but cannot give big budget or cash injection to drive clubs toward and more advance.The latest is 1 by 1 rival clubs can hijack any target player that you want to sign with power of money.Very sad is LFC must sell out the best players to get more money for bid new players.This is not good for our future. The true story is now the right times to sell out Luis Suarez to Real Madrid with mega deal.Not many times left now and LFC must get faster to sell Luis Suarez because he is not happy to keep playing for LFC.No point to keep him for a longer and longer times.Sell him with the good price.I think Luis Suarez value is must over than 70 milion pound.Why not swap with 1 or 2 players we needed from Real Madrid? 60 milion plus with Angel Di Maria or Mesut Ozil.I think fare and win win situation because it is will take times to get good replacement for Luis Suarez.I the same times why not LFC try to get back former striker Fernando Torres from Chelsea as panic shopping player?.....Last choice but enough to help LF win back again.

benficamad 2:21 pm, 2-Sep-2013

you english fans are kidding yourself if you think he will play for england

James Russell 2:52 pm, 5-Sep-2013

I myself am really excited about this kid and i think Liverpool are definately going in the right direction

AFANG ANIEFON 3:22 pm, 5-Sep-2013

How many seasons will it takes for Ilori to begin his work in liverpool?

Paulo 3:33 pm, 5-Sep-2013

Benficamad, you are a cunt, a portugese cunt.

Ubarab 6:26 am, 6-Sep-2013

The guy is a Nigerian! Why not go and play for your fatherland? I think Moses is from there 2!

Rufai Ibrahim 11:49 am, 6-Sep-2013

I want you to play for ur father'sland.

Sal 1:49 pm, 6-Sep-2013

To all you who said Lucas does not have cover, and is prone to injury. We now not only have Lucas & Allen who may i add sources are stating his days are numbered. But I would like to see him being played in his position!! Allen is a confidence player, just like Torres. now we have llori . I see Lucas being a benchwarmer very soon unless he starts working his socks off

brown nkemka 2:21 pm, 6-Sep-2013

let's hope he will be a good addition.ynwa

hoyehbahmhiji 2:25 pm, 6-Sep-2013

Am really glad wif this article,dat's means LFC is gona njoy ds kid... Okay I can't waits 2 c all ds hype manufct. Buh I know 1 thing 4 sure B.R is really try 2 develop LFC with small budget he stl 3rin 2 sanction some good transaction.

AKPOLOGUN JUDE OYIME 7:28 am, 18-Sep-2013

ilori ABIOLA has a red NIGERIA blood, so i hope he considers the AFRICA CHAMPIONS and not england or portugal who are struggling in their region.

naz 11:44 am, 20-Sep-2013

I know. His Dad mate nd he's a Londoner thru nd thru Nigeria don't think so

Saliem 2:13 pm, 6-Jan-2014

Frankly I dont Care what country he plays for. As long as he plays for Liverpool and do well for Liverpool. I would think England is probably better for the Guy.And Zanz Kedah, I dont know which country you are from but you must be an arsenal or Manu supporter to want us to sell SUAREZ!!!!! And buy Torres??? Are you Sick????

Owhrodenyorere Robinson 12:49 pm, 30-Dec-2014

Somebody should stop BR from buying bcus he don't know what to buy. K. Daglish should d one doing d buying 4 liverpool fc. As 4 Tiago Ilori he is a liverpool player. T. I. A (Tiago Ilori Abiodun) will not play 4 9ja...

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