Divock Origi’s last minute header won Liverpool the Merseyside Derby on Sunday evening, and possibly sparked the resurrection of his career at Liverpool. The Anfield Talk’s Ronan (@ronan_orourke) asks, can he turn it around?
For a player still just 23 years old, Divock Origi has seen and done enough to satisfy an entire career of many professional footballers. Back in 2013 the Belgian burst onto the scene as a talented 18 year old for French club Lille. In the process he earned a spot in the World Cup squad for Les Diables Rouges at the end of that season. He wasn’t expected to play much, and he was thought of as very much one for the future but he made the most of his opportunities. It is entirely possible that if it wasn’t for an injury to Christian Benteke, he wouldn’t even have been on the plane but fate would strike not for the last time for Origi.
The Belgians needed a Marouane Fellaini inspired comeback to beat a resilient Algerian side in their open as Romelu Lukaku struggled in leading the line. A familiar pattern followed in their second match against Russia and after an hour manager Marc Wilmots had seen enough and again turned to Origi. With only minutes to go, the show of faith paid off handsomely as the youngster smartly finished past Igor Akinfeev to win the match and secure his country’s path to the round of 16.
The final group match against South Korea was now an opportunity for Belgium to rest their key men. Neither Origi or Lukaku started as rumours spread like wildfire over who would be starting the knock out match against the United States. Would it be the misfiring and laborious Lukaku or the technical and dynamic Origi? Unsurprisingly, Wilmots went with Origi who again put in an eye catching 90 minute shift against a determined American side inspired by a near unbeatable Tim Howard. It would be Lukaku off the bench who would seal the victory on this occasion though after Kevin de Bruyne had finally breached Howard’s defenses.
The question came up again for the quarter final against one of the undoubted favorites for the title in Leo Messi’s Argentina. Once again Wilmots turned to his young talent (not that Lukaku was a old timer or anything!). The youthful Belgian side started nervously and gave up what would ultimately be the winning goal after just 8 minutes from Gonzalo Higuain. Origi gave his all but would be replaced in the second half by Lukaku in a game mostly remembered for an uncharacteristically muted performance by Eden Hazard (he too was even subbed with 15 mins to go). The journey was over for the Belgians but the future looked bright as we saw clear evidence of this past summer in Russia. A nearly identical squad were many neutrals favourite team and were very close to beating eventual winners France in the semi finals.
Sadly one key member from 2014 was missing. Divock Origi watched the whole thing at home. He wasn’t even part of the traveling squad on this occasion. Anyone who watched the World Cup in Brazil would have rightly assumed that Origi was one of the top young talents in Europe and would go on to play in every ensuing major tournament for Belgium. He had absolutely everything: Pace, size, technique, power, confidence and he knew how to finish. Where did it all go wrong?
Well let’s not be overly dramatic, an awful lot has gone well for Origi since 2014 but his development has unquestionably been stunted at times. When he resurfaced with 10 minutes to go on Saturday in the Merseyside Derby, it was understandable that many supporters had lost faith in the qualities he once brought to the table. Even I, a longtime closeted Origi believer wasn’t even sure he could have an impact. His winning goal on the surface appeared to be a strike of the fortuitous variety. However, as with most lucky events, if you look at little deeper you can see we often make our own luck. Origi was lucky that Jordan Pickford made an absolute meal of what should have been a simple tip over but there was more to it than that. After Virgil van Dijk horribly misjudged his attempted volley almost everyone assumed that the chance and in turn the match was gone. Divock Origi didn’t. Through instinct or desperation he did not give up. Even the ultimate poacher Danny Sturridge didn’t show much interest in wandering in for a closer look. The rest is very much history. Origi no matter what he does from here on will be remembered for that goal just like Sadio Mané’s at Goodison two years ago or Gary McAllister’s back in 2001. We can only hope that the importance of the goal will only grow in time.
But what had happened to Origi in the meantime? How had it come to this that his entering a game would be a surprise or a reason for a lack of enthusiasm? Well as it so happens it all started right after that World Cup in 2014. It was that summer that Liverpool swooped in and signed him from Lille for just 10 million pounds. It looked like the bargain of the century. However, the terms of the deal meant that Origi had to return to France for another season on loan. It was not an enjoyable season for Origi as he clearly struggled to motivate himself for Ligue 1 action having signed for Liverpool and played in a World Cup quarter final, and his form unfortunately suffered.
Upon arrival at Anfield the following year, he needed time to build his confidence back and that belief seemed to come in the form of Jurgen Klopp who put his faith in the Belgian. His first competitive goals for Liverpool came in the form of a classy hat trick at Southampton in the League Cup when he started to form an on pitch bond with Sturridge. He would eventually become the preferred centre forward as Klopp started to favour playing just one striker. This resulted in a very positive Europa League run for the club and player. Origi most notably scored home and away in that famous quarter final win over Klopp’s former team Borussia Dortmund.
Just when it was all going well again for Origi, he was dealt a massive blow in another Merseyside Derby as Ramiro Funes Mori snapped his ankle with an awful tackle. The season was effectively over for the Belgian and all his momentum was gone once more. He would just about make it back for the Europa League final but only from the bench. Likewise he made the Belgian squad for the Euros in France but played no significant part in proceedings.
He would reach double digits for goals in all competitions the following season but the form and consistency never quite seemed to be there. As a result Origi was sent on loan to Wolfsburg for the 2017-2018 season as Klopp decided to use Dominic Solanke as a back up to Roberto Firmino. Once again, it wasn’t the most enjoyable loan experience for Origi as he scored just 6 goals in the Bundesliga. Most importantly though, he was at least getting game time.
It did appear as if Liverpool were listening to offers for Origi over the summer but it was a case of his current value not matching his actual talent valuation and he returned to Anfield to battle with Solanke to be the third striker behind Firmino and Sturridge. For now at least it appears clear that Origi is the next in line. He has slowly earned back the trust of Klopp.
Who knows yet if this is to be the beginning of a resurrection for Divock Origi but what is abundantly clear is that it is likely he will be needed again in the coming weeks and months with the games coming thick and fast. It can only be of benefit to the club that he has finally getting that belief in himself back again because when on form, Divock Origi is an extremely valuable asset. And yes, he’s still only 23….