Villyan Bijev, an 18-year-old striker from Fresno, Calif., has signed with England’s Liverpool FC, according to weekend reports from MLSsoccer.com and numerous other outlets.
The Bulgarian-born teenager is a product of California Odyssey Soccer Club and recently impressed while on trial at Liverpool. Playing just the first half in the Liverpool Under-18 side’s 8-0 demolition of Stevenage Borough, Bijev scored a hat trick, earned a penalty kick and set up another goal with a clever heel flick (match highlights below; Bijev wears #9).
“This is such an incredible achievement for Villyan,” said California Odyssey Club Director Jeremy Schultz in a statement on the Clovis, Ca.-based club’s website. “He has been so committed to soccer and this reward for him is much deserved. He has displayed not only the ability to maximize his potential through dedication, commitment and hard work and seize his moments of opportunity but he has maintained a humble spirit and become a man of character along his journey.
“We are so incredibly proud of his accomplishments and know that Villyan will continue to push himself to achieve more. He is a special player.”
MLSsoccer.com’s Greg Seltzer reports that Bijev signed a five-year contract with the Reds and was immediately sent out on loan to Belgian champions Racing Genk, where he is expected to challenge for playing time with the first team this season. Bijev is a member of the United States’ U-18 national team player pool but also holds a Bulgarian passport, which greatly simplifies the process of securing a work permit.