US youth Villyan Bijev
John Dorton/ISI

American Exports: Youth phenom Bijev inked by Liverpool

AMSTERDAM — Cal Odyssey striker Villyan Bijev has signed a five-year contract with English Premier League giants Liverpool and has been immediately loaned to Belgian champs Racing Genk, has learned.

The 18-year-old Fresno, Calif.-raised forward holds a Bulgarian passport, but that country has yet to fully complete its European Union induction, having only joined in 2007. Bijev will be able to obtain a UK work permit with his passport next July, but for the meantime must start his pro days in the Jupiler League.

While wowing the Reds on a blind-given trial suggested by his rep, Bijev may have convinced them to offer a deal with a 45-minute friendly showing with the Under-18s against Stevenage Borough. The American bagged a hat trick, won the penalty kick for another goal and set up yet another to spark an 8-0 romp.

Bijev will join the Genk first team for training, but will likely work his way into the selection with some reserve action.

"Everybody cuts their teeth in the second team," Bijev's agent, Steve Kelly, told on Friday. "[Liverpool] would be very surprised if he wasn't in the first team by the end of the season."

Bijev, a member of the US U-18 player pool, could hope to make his Genk debut when the U-21 side opens their season with an August 19 trip to Anderlecht.

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