Last October, as the Reds prepared for the exciting Carabao Cup clash against Arsenal, a virtually unknown 16-year-old was called up to the senior squad.
Few people had heard of young defender Billy Koumetio before that day, so how exactly did he successfully snatch up a place in the senior line up?
Born in Lyon, the Frenchman began his career in the youth team at Olympique Lyonnais, originally playing as a left-winger. When he reached the u14s level, his coach recommended he tried the position of centre-back because of his impressive height — even now, aged 17, Koumetio stands at 6ft 4in and still has time to grow further.
He has played at the back ever since, dominating in defence and repeatedly demonstrating his ability to maintain possession. This meant that, during his time at his local club, he rose up through the academy at some pace and was ready for a change of scene.
From Lyon he moved on to US Orléans, who currently play in French Ligue 2. He has explained that this was a difficult move, and for someone of such a young age it was tough being away from his family. This stint in Orléans, almost 200 miles away from home, did help in preparing him for his big move to England that came six months later.
Koumetio joined the LFC academy in 2018, moving in with a host family in the Kirkby area having impressed at a trial with the u17s in Berlin shortly before. By the 2019/20 season, the young Frenchman was playing for the u18 squad, proving his worth as a strong centre-back. His style is aggressive and strong in defence, particularly on the front foot.
In an interview for the Liverpool FC site earlier this year he described himself as “competitive, really competitive” on the pitch, whilst being happy and friendly elsewhere. In the same interview, his manager at the time, Barry Lewtas, praised him as a “real imposing figure at centre-back” as well as a leader amongst his peers.
Back in May 2019, Koumetio had acted as a ballboy at Liverpool’s legendary Champions League clash with Barcelona at Anfield, looking out in awe at some of the biggest names in football and hoping he could play with that team one day.
A step-up came sooner than expected, as only five months later he was called up to the squad for the Carabao Cup game, proving that his hard work and competitive attitude had paid off. It is certainly understandable how witnessing the Reds’ impressive comeback against the iconic Spanish team would have increased the young defender’s determination.
Although he has yet to play alongside the likes of James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a match, Koumetio has impressed fans and coaches alike, with many seeing him as a potential future star for the club. Admiration may have come from his multiple occasions playing well for the French national youth team.
Unfortunately, due to an injury sustained before Christmas, fans were not able to see him on pitch before the suspension of English football back in March, but as we approach the restart there are hopes he will be called up again. This will be crucial for the 17-year-old, as he pushes to catch up with some of his peers such as Curtis Jones and Neco Williams, who have had multiple opportunities to play for the first-team.
If the Merseyside club are able to secure the league title within the first few matches, though, there’s a chance that other young talents such as Koumetio and Abdi Sharif may be given the chance to play in some of the remaining fixtures.
Such exposure and experience is exactly what the Frenchman hopes for, and would be an excellent opportunity for him to demonstrate his strong defensive skills and claim his spot as a future LFC star.
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