Name: Tiago Ilori
Club: Sporting Lisbon
Who is he?
Born in London to a Portuguese mother and a half Nigerian, half English father, Ilori and his family moved to Portugal when he was a child and joined Sporting Lisbon’s youth academy in 2006, aged 13.
Originally a striker, he was converted into a defender in the youth ranks and began to make his name for his club in the NextGen series.
Ilori has begun to establish himself in Sporting’s senior squad, having made his debut in November 2011. The 20-year-old did manage 11 appearances at club level this season.
Yet to play for the Portuguese senior national team, he has been capped at U18, U19, U20 and U21 level.
Tall and good in the air at 1m90, Ilori is also very comfortable on the ball, based on early experiences further up the field.
But his biggest asset is his pace. It is a given that ex-Sporting Lisbon stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani are lightening quick. But unbelievably Ilori is faster in a straight line, having broken the duo’s sprint record in training. That gives him an advantage in one-on-ones similar to Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane.
The one drawback is his slender frame but at 20, he has time to work on his strength and physique in the gym.
Because of his attributes and his impressive showings in the NextGen series and the Portuguese league, there is plenty of interest from some of Europe’s bigger clubs.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is said to be particularly in securing his signature this summer due to his composed style and ability on the ball. Sporting Lisbon’s financial issues mean a move is a possibility sooner rather than later.
Whether he moves on this summer or not, he has the makings of a classy centre-half.