Villyan Bijev, a local soccer star who recently graduated from Clovis North High, is turning pro.
And Bijev isn't signing with just any professional soccer team -- but with Liverpool F.C. of the Premier League in Europe.
Bijev, 18, signed a three-year deal Friday and passed a physical Saturday en route to joining one of the most storied soccer programs and the second most successful club in the history of English football. He is scheduled to return to Fresno today, then leave for England next week.
"For people who don't understand soccer, this is like a shortstop from Clovis getting ready to play for the New York Yankees," Clovis North coach Chad McCarty said. "Bijev is definitely one of the best, if not the best, to come out of here. He has the tools to become a World Cup player.
"But by no means is he there yet. It's a good start for him, but it's only the beginning."
Bijev, who could not be reached for comment Sunday as he traveled back to the United States, had signed to play college soccer at Washington.
McCarty, however, said Bijev always had a desire to turn pro.
Bijev, formerly a member of the Fresno-based travel soccer club Cal Odyssey, had been playing for the United States' Under-18 national team.
"His ambition always was to be a pro as soon as possible," McCarty said. "He got an offer from Liverpool, and that's really hard to turn down.
"They'll bring him along slowly, kind of like a first-round quarterback in the NFL, until he's ready. He's got to get used to living in Europe first and get used to the speed of the game. But this was an investment for the future for Liverpool."
According to Liverpool's website, Bijev impressed the Reds' coaching staff while on trial for the team's Under-18 academy squad last week, scoring five goals and contributing two assists in two games.
Bijev is expected to avoid any work permit issues because he holds dual citizenship with the United States and Bulgaria.
A dynamic goal scorer, Bijev was a Bee All-Star the past three years and the Tri-River Athletic Conference's Offensive Player of the Year after scoring 15 goals for the Broncos. Bijev played at Edison before transferring for his senior year.
"This is such an incredible achievement for Villyan," Cal Odyssey director Jeremy Schultz said in a news release.
"He has displayed not only the ability to maximize his soccer potential through dedication, commitment and hard work and seize his moments of opportunity but ... he is a special player who has consistently proven to be the best in his environment."
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