The Spaniard and Portuguese, 20 and 21 respectively, have both impressed on loan this season, and are seen as potential future stars at Anfield. Henry Jackson (@OnFootballTweet) assesses how the youngsters have done in their time away from Liverpool.
La Liga side Almeria may be struggling in the relegation zone currently, but Suso has undoubtedly been one of their success stories of the season.
The Spaniard joined Liverpool’s academy in 2010, and upon the arrival of Brendan Rodgers in the summer of 2012, he made 20 appearances for the Reds last season. Despite impressing, particularly at the beginning of the season, the 20-year-old joined Almeria on a season loan to further his development.
Rodgers felt that he wouldn’t be a regular this season, following the signing of Philippe Coutinho and development of Raheem Sterling, and it looks to have been a shrewd decision by the Reds boss.
The classy attacking midfielder, who can either play in a central or wide role, much like Coutinho or his Spanish compatriots David Silva and Juan Mata, has featured in 32 of Almeria’s league games- he has started 25 of those- scoring three times and creating seven for his teammates.
He produced two assists in his first two games, and has been a key man for the majority of the season. His superb strike against Celta Vigo in November perfectly displayed the talent he has at his disposal.
The benefit of playing week in week out has been huge for Suso, and there can be no doubting that he has developed far more in the last eight or nine months than if he had been sat on the substitutes bench at Liverpool.
With competition for places likely to be even more tough next season, it will be difficult for him to become a regular in the near future. As Rodgers has shown with the likes of Sterling and Jon Flanagan this season, however, he will always give youth a chance. Suso is easily good enough to become a Reds hero in the future.
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The 21-year-old was signed from Sporting last September, and was regarded as one of the best young centre-backs in Europe. Having not played a single game for Liverpool he was loaned out to Granada to gain some much-needed playing time.
Although he has made just six La Liga appearances for the 14th-placed side to date, he has impressed in that time, particularly against Barcelona last month. The Portuguese Under-21 international was a key player as they beat the Catalan giants 1-0, and he made a crucial block to deny Cesc Fabregas an equaliser.
Although there have been rumours of Ilori making the switch to Granada permanent at the end of the season, it seems highly unlikely that that will be the case. Rodgers rates him very highly, and sees him as a potential starter for the Reds in future years.
The fact that Rodgers has asked Granada to deploy Ilori as a right-sided centre-back- despite being right-footed he’s often preferred to play on the left- speaks volumes.
With Mamadou Sakho likely to be Liverpool’s left-sided centre-back for the foreseeable future, and with Martin Skrtel not getting any younger- he turns 30 this year- it would appear that the Reds boss sees Sakho and Ilori as his possible defensive partnership for years to come.
That’s not to say that Ilori is guaranteed a starting berth as soon as he returns, especially considering the club will likely sign at least one centre-back in the summer. He’s clearly part of Rodgers’ plans though.
Composed on the ball, quick and a physical presence, Ilori has everything required to be a top class defender for the next decade. Like Suso, this loan switch will only aid his development.
Do you think Suso and Ilori will be future Liverpool stars? Let us know in the comments section below.