Tiago Ilori move to Aston Villa was an unexpected one considering the squad’s current abundance of centre-backs, but the loan gives the 22-year-old a chance to stake a claim to be the future of Villa’s defence.
Since joining Liverpool in 2013, Ilori has yet to make an appearance for them. The £1m loan fee paid by Villa is back-ended by the option to buy the Portuguese U-21 international, who was actually born in London.
It was an unexpected move by Sherwood on deadline day, but the player must have done enough on loan spells at Granada and Bordeaux to convince Villa he was worth taking on. Liverpool certainly didn’t seem to be too bothered about giving him a chance.
The most puzzling thing about Villa bringing Ilori in is the fact that Nathan Baker was shipped out on loan to Bristol City (after recently signing a new contract). It was thought that his loan was to make way for Joleon Lecott, who also completed his move on deadline day, but it seems since they are a similar age Ilori must be favoured above Baker.
Maybe it was simply a case of opportunity knocking and Ilori simply being available, with a loan period giving the club time to do some future planning and assess him as a successor to Lescott, who is expected to have two seasons tops at Villa.
Ilori cost Liverpool £7m from Sporting Lisbon, which at that price suggests he has the caliber to be competing to start, but can he really break through the centre-back ranks of Lescott, Micah Richards, Jores Okore and Ciaran Clark? (We’ll take it for granted that Philippe Senderos won’t have a part to play for Villa this season).
‘Versatile defender’ was also the description afforded to new signing José Ángel Crespo. So Crespo’s Villa career seems to be something of a limited one, as Ilori will almost certainly be above him in the pecking order.
Maybe Ilori has potential at right-back, a position that Villa still haven’t found an absolute solution for. Richards would also move across, though he seems to have primed his move to Villa on the fact he would be the first choice centre-back.
It’s going to be an interesting season full-stop in terms of how Villa’s ranks of new signings integrate and perform, but the defensive situation is certainly starting to take on a fascination all of its own.
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