Opinion: What's next for Tiago Ilori?

The Portuguese defender is at a crossroads in his Liverpool career but what does the future hold?

Opinion: What's next for Tiago Ilori?
Tiago Ilori is at a difficult spell in his Liverpool career (image: getty)

At just 22-year-old you would expect a player that has been at a club for three years to be on the brink of a breakthrough, however the case for a starting place for Tiago Ilori could not be further away. 

With three loan spells under his name matching his overall appearance tally for Liverpool the future may be looking bleak for a player that in the beginning looked to have a bright future ahead of him.

Ilori's Liverpool background

Tiago Ilori during his loan spell at Ligue 1 side Bordeaux (image: getty)
Tiago Ilori during his loan spell at Ligue 1 side Bordeaux (image: getty)

Ilori was a Brendan Rodgers signing and joined the club in the summer of 2013 from Sporting Lisbon for a fee of around £7 million. The Northern Irishman labeling the player as a "big talent", Ilori was talked up further along with Mamadou Sakho as the former Reds boss said he believed central defensive issues at Anfield were "solved" for the next 10 years. 

Following those comments however, Ilori was sent out on loan just four months later to Spanish side Granada. There, the defender's experience would be a valuable learning curve given that he would be playing for a quick passing side looking to avoid relegation from the top-flight. 

After a relatively unsuccessful spell, following just nine appearances, Ilori was loaned out again the following season, this time to French outfit Bordeaux. In yet another move that was seen as a disappointing one, as the defender made just 12 appearances throughout his time in the French first division, struggling to make the impact that was expected of him.

With Rodgers not seeing a future for the player on Merseyside, when the 2014-15 season began, again he was sent out on loan. This time to fellow Premier League side Aston Villa, with the Villians given the option of a permanent transfer at the end of the season - something that sparked uproar amongst Liverpool fans on social media, disappointed at the fact he was never given a game for the club.

Without making a single appearance under Tim Sherwood or Remi Garde, he was recalled to Liverpool on the 7th of January 2016 with Jürgen Klopp now at the helm and the club stricken by injuries. With no fit centre-backs available, Ilori made his first appearance just a day later at Exeter City - but what lies ahead for the future?

Not kicking on from recall

Despite injuries hampering the defensive region of the reds, Ilori has been given little opportunity to fight for his place in the side as the former Sporting Lisbon man is falling further and further down the pecking order at Anfield. 

A rather mediocre first display for the club has set the tone for the rest of his season, as a lack of fitness hindered his debut forcing him off the pitch late on. 

Since then the youngster has made just two more appearances in the 3-0 victory over Exeter in the League Cup replay and the FA Cup loss to West Ham United

In both following displays, the no.26 has failed to demonstrate assertive performances, often looking lost and relying on the senior players to guide him through the match. 

Pecking Order

Tiago Ilori battles in a training session with Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel (image:getty)
Tiago Ilori battles in a training session with Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel (image:getty)

A host of centre-backs and even make-shift defenders lay ahead of Ilori in the pecking order as the writing may already be on the wall for the Portugal Under 21 international. 

The senior figures of Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho are understandably the favoured faces in the heart of the defence, but the most telling factor may be that Lucas Leiva is potentially a more favoured option. 

The Brazilian performed outstandingly in the West Ham fixture in the defensive role, and has received support from many including legend Jamie Carragher who has said that the 29-year-old should start at centre-back. 

Ilori has received little backing, often going under the radar with the player still waiting on a first Premier League appearance it is looking likely that he will moved on in the summer as a mass clearout awaits the redmen, but the move may be beneficial to the defender who has not been given an extended run, for a long time.