- LocationLondon, England
- Squad Number26
Portuguese defender Tiago Ilori increased the defensive options available to Brendan Rodgers after signing for the Reds from Sporting Lisbon during the summer of 2013.
Born in London on February 26, 1993, Ilori’s football career began on the Algarve with provincial outfit Imortal; in 2006, then operating as a forward, he joined Sporting’s famous academy.
Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo are just two of the world-renowned players who were moulded as a youngster at Sporting – one of Portugal’s heavyweight sides. But Ilori’s path would be slightly different.
He was loaned to Estoril for the 2007-08 campaign to gain experience and actually gained a new position. When Tiago returned to Alcochete, he had been transformed into an elegant, ball-playing centre-back.
It was at Sporting’s academy where the lightning fast Ilori reportedly broke club records for speed in training over 30 metres.
Liverpool’s foray into the newly-formed NextGen Series in 2011 included two matches with a sensational Sporting side including Ilori at the heart of their defence; the young Reds were downed on both occasions.
Senior coaches at Sporting took notice and the aspiring defender was handed an official debut against Uniao de Leiria in November 2011. An appearance in the Europa League at Lazio followed – the 18-year-old was making a name for himself.
International honours came Ilori’s way too and he represented his country at U18, U19 and U20 level while learning his trade. A regular berth in the Sporting starting XI remained out of reach, however.
But with Sporting struggling in the Primeira Liga, coach Jesualdo Ferreira put his faith in the youth prospects who had so impressed during their NextGen Series journey.
Ilori – noted for his aerial ability and versatility in playing anywhere in defence – made his first senior league appearance of the 2012-13 season in February, notching an early goal in victory at Gil Vicente.
Tiago’s technique and composure with the ball at his feet, allied to his tactical reading of the game, ensured he would retain a place in the Lisbon outfit’s line-up until the close of the campaign.
His experience on the international scene continued to grow too; Ilori was part of the Portugal squad which finished fourth at the annual Toulon Tournament, after representing his country at the European U19 Championship in 2012.
And the young prospect took the next step in his career by completing a switch to Liverpool in September 2013, becoming Rodgers’ sixth signing of the summer transfer window.
In January 2014, Ilori joined Spanish outfit Granada on loan until the end of the season. There, he played nine times, impressing at central defence, and experiencing the thrill of a victory over Barcelona.
He was heading out on a temporary basis again in August of that year, this time to Ligue 1 outfit Bordeaux for a season-long stay with the French club.