"[Giampaolo] Pozzo extended a benevolent hand to the struggling, almost defunct Spanish side, Granada," Rob Hughes at The New York Times wrote. "Players surplus to Udinese's needs would be lent to help lift Granada to the top tier of La Liga."
Player development is not limited to Udinese or Watford, as Granada regularly engage in "you do a favor for me, and I'll do a favor for you" type of deals with other clubs.
In the summer transfer window, six Granada players were loaned out to Segunda Division club Hercules (sad to see how far they have fallen since beating Barcelona 2-0 in 2010), with the most notable player being Gai Assulin, the former Barca and Manchester City prospect.
That is an example of Granada relinquishing their players in return for footballing maturation.
On the flip side, Granada have allocated playing time to loanees: 20-year-old Rennes full-back Dimitri Foulquier, France's FIFA U-20 World Cup hero; 23-year-old Malaga centre midfielder Recio, a ball-dominant player; and 26-year-old Mallorca wide forward Michael Pereira, a speedy winger who once scored against Barca.
So, who are Ilori's competition?
Jeison Murillo, 6'0", Age: 21
If you were to come up with three Granada players who could be sold for €10-15 million, it would be centre-forward Youssef El-Arabi, left forward Yacine Brahimi and centre-back Murillo.
Murillo leads Granada in headers per game (2.9), is athletic, a powerful tackler, consistently intercepts passes (41 in 17 games) and can hit piercing long passes like Barca's Gerard Pique.
Murillo represented Colombia at the 2009 U-17 World Cup and the 2011 U-20 World Cup, so jot down his name because he has the potential to transition into a world-class centre-back.
Diego Mainz, 6'1", Age: 31
Mainz is a conservative centre-back who would rather let an opposing No. 9 shoot than dive into a risky tackle. Mainz jockeys, has compact positioning, is a leader of men, reads the play well and is a safe passing outlet.
Pape Malickou Diakhate, 6'1", Age: 29
Yes, Diakhate has made some great last-ditched blocks, but he is the worst of the three centre-backs.
Murillo is proactive, and Mainz is dependable—Diakhate is hit-and-miss.
He could have been an Arsenal player if Arsene Wenger listened to Bacary Sagna.
"We are all waiting to see what the manager [Wenger] does but Malickou [Diakhate] would be very welcome in our team," Sagna said in 2010, as per Darren Lewis at the Mirror. "I have met him [Diakhate] a few times and he is a very good guy and a very good player."
The issue with Diakhate is his low concentration levels, as evident in the 2-0 defeat to Getafe.
He was issued a yellow card 12 minutes into the game by referee Mateu Lahoz for barging into the back of Getafe deep-lying forward Pablo Sarabia. Nineteen minutes later, Diakhate caught Getafe defensive midfielder Borja in the face with a swinging arm and was sent off.
Marca slated Diakhate's performance, giving him a 2/10 player rating.
Signed from Sporting Lisbon for £7 million, as per Andy Hunter at The Guardian, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has not managed Ilori well.
In the 3-1 Premier League win over Crystal Palace, Liverpool were 3-0 up after 45 minutes. Why not ease Ilori into the game? In the 2-0 FA Cup win over Oldham, why didn't Ilori start?
Brad Smith has played more minutes in the first team than Ilori, who has not even been afforded one minor cameo appearance under Rodgers.
It is not like Ilori is another run-of-the-mill player.
He can keep up with the pace of Premier League football.
"It's true that they have speed tests at Sporting and in one of them I have the record," Ilori said, as per LiverpoolFC.com. "I don't think I'm such a fighter like a typical centre-back, but I can be aggressive when I need to. I like to take the ball out."
To put things into perspective: He holds a speed record over Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Bruma, Yannick Djalo, Diego Capel, etc.
What Rodgers should have done was give Ilori irregular minutes, which was how Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola handled Jan Kirchhoff prior to him being loaned out to Schalke.
Regarding Ilori's loan to Granada, it is touch-and-go.
He will not usurp Murillo, the club's best centre-back, from the starting XI.
Mainz is a leader; he organises the defence and signed a three-year contract last May.
Ilori will likely serve as the backup centre-back because Diakhate has expressed his desire to move to a new club in this window, according to Granada manager Lucas Alcaraz.
"He [Diakhate] has asked to leave because he has better proposals," Alcaraz said, as per Inside Spanish Football. "We're not going to go against his will."
Ilori will only play regularly on loan at Granada, 11th in La Liga standings, under three circumstances:
- Granada, the sixth-best-ranked defence, start hemorrhaging goals. Granada have conceded 25 goals in 20 La Liga games, which is better than Athletic Bilbao (26 in 20), Real Sociedad (30 in 20), Valencia (31 in 20) and Sevilla (31 in 20).
- Murillo or Mainz suffer a long-term injury.
- Alcaraz decides to change Ilori's position.
"Every player wants game-time but that can't happen for everyone," Rodgers, then manager of Swansea City, said in 2012, as per ESPN. "The loan move was more than just games. It was also about experiencing a new team, city and lifestyle."
Rodgers was referring to Josh McEachran, on loan from Chelsea.
McEachran spent the latter half of the 2011-12 season watching Leon Britton make 93.4 percent of his passes and Joe Allen put in tackle after tackle.
Should Ilori make one league start and three sub appearances for Granada, McEachran's contributions at Swansea, Rodgers better not say Ilori's loan was a success because "it was also about experiencing a new team, city and lifestyle."
Hopefully, Ilori can rise to the challenge at Granada, because it is a tough assignment.
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