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Opinion

Liverpool have their Virgil van Dijk heir in Billy Koumetio

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After what must be seen as a successful year for Liverpool, it appears that the rumour mill is once again swirling as the summer transfer window nears.

As a team rarely linked to many players, it is a surprise to see the Reds close in on a big-money deal for Benfica’s Darwin Nunez. A significant outlay of up to €100m (£86m), this transfer could represent the disappearance of a huge chunk of Jurgen Klopp’s budget.

It, therefore, makes perfect sense for the German to begin integrating the player who could succeed the great Virgil van Dijk into the squad, as the Dutch international turns 32 in July.

Billy Koumetio joined the Reds from Orleans FC in 2019 and has mustered two first-team appearances, his first being in the Champions League.

Standing at a hulking 6 foot 4, the same height as Van Dijk, the 19-year-old who has represented France at youth level offers a huge physical presence matched with speed and intelligence that likens him to Liverpool’s elite Dutch defender.

Koumetio has managed 24 appearances this season in the Premier League 2, even chipping in with two goals and an assist.

Training with Van Dijk as much as he will have done can only help boost the teenager, who has so much to learn from the former Premier League Players’ Player of the Season. He himself has already outlined how much of an influence this has had on him, speaking to Liverpool FC:

“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.”

When asked to describe the central defender, his manager Jurgen Klopp could only muster one word: “Incredible.”

This sort of high praise from one of Europe’s top coaches should give the youngster all the confidence in the world to feel like he can be the one to fill the Van Dijk void that will soon be left.

With time, Koumetio can iron out any mistakes he may have and develop the confidence and swagger akin to his idol. He already has suffered mistakes at first team level, which is crucial to development, yet still Klopp supported him.

Following a blunder in the 2020/21 pre-season, the German remained confident of how the £450k-rated colossus can use these struggles for growth:

“Absolutely (he will learn). We had some problems in the first half,” he noted but was still impressed by his ability on the ball. “Billy played super balls, super passes and was there.”

With a clear eye for a pass, and all the physical attributes to be a dominant Premier League defender, and with Van Dijk reaching the twilight of his career, the youngster’s emergence could not have come at a better time for Liverpool.

He truly can be the heir to the 31-year-old’s throne, if only he can remove any gaffes from his game.

In other news, Liverpool are now closing in on £49.5m-rated “predator”, he could outgun Haaland...

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