With Liverpool’s defence somewhat in crisis even before the season starts, one player must be thankful. With Joel Matip currently injured, Mamadou Sakho both injured and on manager Jürgen Klopp’s shit list, young Porteguese defender Tiago Ilori must be sitting back think to himself, a good performance in the Olympics with the national team and I can maybe cement my place in Liverpool’s back four.
Before anyone starts on shiteing on about Ilori and how shite he is, when he left the Sporting Lisbon academy he was ranked as a better prospect than one Cristiano Ronaldo. While I know players don’t always live up to their billing, I believe the description of Ilori was correct. The only unfortunate thing for him was he came to Liverpool when Brendan Rodgers was in charge and as we all saw, Rodgers had no idea about defending. Remember his comment about Liverpool not needing a defensive coach when the team was linking goals. This is the same man played Emre Can as both a right back and a centre back.
Rodgers treatment of Ilori in my opinion was disgusting. For anyone who watched the European U-21 Championships in the summer of 2015 would have seen Ilori, the real Ilori. The player he was billed to be and alongside Emre Can, he was the stand out player for me. Then there was the whole Aston Villa saga from last season. The club and the manager acted like amateurs with the whole thing. Villa were never going to play him enough times to activate the buy out clause that was put in the loan deal. In fact Villa never played him at all. For a player so young this kind of antics was sure to affect his confidence.
Speaking of confidence, Ilori moving to Liverpool – while it was a confidence boost for him, he confidence nosed dived in his first season when he was told he didn’t figure in Brendan Rodgers plans for that season and was loaned out. For a young player, actually any player when your confidence takes a hit like that it takes time to recover. Thankfully though Brendan Rodgers was sacked and Jürgen Klopp came to Liverpool. Klopp gave Ilori his first appearances in a Liverpool shirt in cup competitions and to be fair to him he showed how much of a player he was. While Ilori is still waiting for his first Premier League appearance, Klopp’s use of Lucas as a make shift centre back towards the end of last season was more down to Ilori’s lack of Premier League experience than his lack of ability.
Now is the time for Ilori to prove his worth and impress Klopp while at the Olympics in Rio. He certainly has the ability to force his way in to the Liverpools first team, he’s a better defender than Dejan Lovren, younger than any of the other first team defenders currently at the club. All he lacks is experience and hopefully with Poetugal over the next few weeks he gains some experience and comes back toLiverpool and forces his way up the centre back pecking order.