‘He’s a big talent’ – All you need to know about Liverpool’s Billy Koumetio
With Virgil van Dijk injured and a relentless fixture list, Liverpool have been forced to give more first-team opportunities to their academy prospects.
One of those who made his debut this season was Billy Koumetio. The 18-year-old centre back is rated highly by coaches at Anfield and looks set to have a bright future in the game.
We’ve collected everything you need to know about the talented teenager.
Born in November 2002, Koumetio is of Cameroonian descent and grew up in the French city of Lyon during the local club’s domination of the French league.
He was on the books of his hometown team, where he started out as a winger. At the age of 14, the coaches at Olympique Lyonnais noted Koumetio’s height and moved him to centre back.
The defender spent time afterwards at US Orleans, who play in France’s Championnat National. Working in a city five hours away from Lyon meant Koumetio had to move away from his family aged just 16.
Move to Liverpool
After a few months with US Orleans, Koumetio joined Liverpool’s academy in November 2018. Impressing the coaches at Liverpool with his physique, the youngster was included in the squad for the 5-5 Carabao Cup draw with Arsenal in October 2019 – although he did not make his debut that day.
Having sufficiently impressed during his time with the Academy, Koumetio signed his first professional contract in the summer of 2020. Soon after, he was included in Liverpool’s pre-season plans before the 2020-21 season – where he featured in friendlies against Red Bull Salzburg and VFB Stuttgart.
Sources at the club have suggested he would have integrated into the first-team earlier if not for an injury at the end of last season.
The 18-year-old made his first-team debut in the Champions League against FC Midtjylland in December 2020, replacing Fabinho at half-time to become the youngest player to represent Liverpool in the competition.
One interesting anecdote that has emerged in the past few days is that Koumetio was a ballboy during one of Liverpool’s great European nights.
Having arrived midway through the 2018-19 season, the centre-back was on hand to witness Liverpool’s thrilling 4-0 win over Barcelona in May 2019 first-hand.
“It was amazing, unbelievable. I could see the big boys, the big players, in front of me. It was a great experience for me,” he told Liverpool’s official website.
“That drives me a lot. When I was sitting so close to the pitch and saw the big boys, they really inspired me.
“I was motivated to work really hard and [in order] to go to that level.”
What they’ve said
– Jurgen Klopp has taken a shine to Koumetio, christening him with the nickname ‘Billy the Kid’.
“He doesn’t look like a kid! In my opinion, his face looks like a kid but then all the rest is like, wow,” Klopp told Liverpool’s official website in August 2020.
“I told him, ‘Last time I saw you, you were like 20 centimetres less if I’m right.’ That’s pretty special. Yes, he’s a big talent.”
– Klopp was pleased with Koumetio’s first-team debut against Midtjylland, where he made his Liverpool bow alongside midfielder Leighton Clarkson.
“He (Koumetio) will learn and especially we let them have the experience without making this one game too big,” Klopp said after the game.
“It is a wonderful thing to have your first Champions League game but your career is about how many you have. Both boys are already really skilled but they have a lot to learn and we will give them the time to do so.
‘I am pretty sure it was a big night for both of them, I am really thankful they are as good as they are, that is the reason why we can use them, but I know there is more to come.”
– Liverpool assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders expressed similar sentiments: “He’s a very tall centre-half, which you’ve already seen of course, but he has a real strength through the air. Not only set-pieces, but if you are a pressing team you have to accept there are a lot of long balls and second-ball play to be played.
“So it’s really important that you have centre-halves that are good in the air to win this first challenge and be brave in this first challenge. Billy is someone who can, even in the air, put the ball where he wants to put it.
“We’d like to give him the opportunity to develop with us, to help us, and to become a strong centre-half for the future for Liverpool Football Club.”
What he’s said
“When I used to play for Lyon, I was playing left-winger,” Koumetio told Liverpool’s official website. “Then I played left-back, too. I think it was Under-14s and at the end of the season the coach put me at centre-back – I think because of my height.
“Now I’m very happy because I think it’s my position and it’s better for me.
“I was trying to get my own style but at the moment Virgil van Dijk really inspires me. I go to the game most of the time and I like watching Virgil doing his game very, very well. Sometimes I’m trying to copy him.”