So many players have come and gone who had outrageous talent, but never had the right mindset to succeed in what can be a cut-throat industry.
Jürgen Klopp is a manager who loves a player with a bulletproof mentality. It’s a huge factor in Liverpool’s success over the last few seasons – even if this poor recent run of form has exposed a few fault lines in that area.
So after a few high-profile mistakes in recent weeks while representing Liverpool u23s, Billy Koumetio faced a test. Would he be able to cast those errors from his mind and get back to showing his best football?
Firstly, it’s ridiculous that he should even be hounded for such mistakes in the way he has been on social media.
Koumetio is 18 years old, often playing against forwards who are older and much more experienced than he is. Premier League 2 should be a safe space for him – somewhere he can make those errors that all youngsters naturally do and learn from them, so he is ready for a more intense, highly scrutinised platform when he starts regularly playing senior football.
But after a mistake last month which saw Amad Diallo run through and score on his Manchester United debut, and another, similar error allowed Thierno Ballo in to open the scoring for Chelsea last week, the boo boys were predictably out in force.
“He’s clearly not good enough.”
“There’s a reason he’s playing for the u23s. Useless.”
And that’s exactly why it was so satisfying to see him back to his commanding best as the mini Reds ran riot at Kirkby with a 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal’s development squad.
With Sepp van den Berg out on loan at Preston North End until the end of the season, Koumetio has inherited his unofficial title of the most high-profile defender among the current crop of talent at Liverpool.Embed from Getty Images
And in a short amount of time he has already struck up something of a partnership with Morgan Boyes in the heart of Barry Lewtas’ defence. Between them they have height, pace and strength, providing a solid wall as the last line of defence in front of the goalkeeper.
It’s clear Klopp has decided he isn’t ready for the first team yet. Even among all the upheaval caused by injuries at centre-back this season, Koumetio’s only involvement with the senior side has been 45 minutes in a Champions League dead rubber in Denmark, as he tried to risk as few key players as possible against Midtjylland after having already qualified for the knockout stages.
But that doesn’t mean the gaffer doesn’t rate him. He has spoken in the past about how the young Frenchman is “incredible” and “a big talent”, and has been keeping close tabs on his development ever since he joined the Reds from US Orléans as a 16-year-old back in 2018.
So Klopp knows how talented he is as a footballer. If Koumetio can produce some more composed performances like the one he put in against Arsenal after his recent high-profile errors, then the German will no doubt be in awe of the youngster’s ability to bounce back too.
After all, in such a ruthless industry, the desire to push yourself to be the best you can is often the difference between those who have long careers at the highest level and those who fail to live up to their potential.
Koumetio just needs to keep working hard. As Klopp is such a big fan, if the teenager keeps his head down and continues to show both his talent and mental fortitude, then a chance to prove himself with the senior side will be inevitable.
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