It was Divock Origi’s performances for Belgium at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil that caught the eye of so many. Liverpool fans were hugely impressed when it emerged that the club had already done much of the groundwork in order to secure the highly rated 19-year-old soon after the tournament’s climax. Prior to that, reports in Italy had linked Origi with a move to Real Madrid and, interestingly, Jürgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund.
When Klopp arrived at Liverpool in October 2015, Divock Origi had not even started a Premier League game for Liverpool. The extra season he had in France did him no favours. Much was made of the fact that he appeared in L’Equipe’s Ligue 1 worst team of the season, too much. If you actually watched Lille during the 2014/15 season, you’d have seen that Origi was, to put it lightly, feeding off scraps. The supply line for him was almost non-existent.
The perfect opportunity came his way in Klopp’s very first game for the club, away at Tottenham. Christian Benteke, Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino, all of whom had been ahead of Origi in the pecking order under Rodgers, were all injured and Klopp was more than ready to give the former Lille man his chance. He even admitted that he did have an interest in signing him whilst at Dortmund.
“I’m really satisfied we can start with Origi in this position. When I was Dortmund coach I thought about him but he was too expensive.”
The question’s in Klopp’s pre-Tottenham press conference were all based on the absence of the other strikers at the club, to which the German calmly replied:
“We have Origi – do you know him? I learned first, you do not think about the players who are not available at this moment because there is no chance to get lucky if you do this all of the time.”
The Origi we saw in the second half of the 2015/16 season was the Origi that everyone had been waiting for. Unfortunately, his progress came to a swift ending when Ramiro Funes Mori’s rash challenge in the Merseyside Derby saw the striker sustain severe ankle ligament damage.
The following pre-season, Klopp’s admiration for Firmino as Liverpool’s main striker became increasingly obvious. His work-ethic and link-up play with the likes of Sadio Mané and Philippe Coutinho was perfect for Klopp. Origi had to settle for a role as an impact substitution for much of the season.
It was that frontline of Firmino, Mané and Coutinho that fired the club to a top four finish, and although Origi managed to net 11 times throughout the course of the season, it was not the campaign that he’d have wanted.
At times, you can see why Klopp claims to have been interested in the striker when he broke through at Lille. There have been suggestions that this comment from the German was nothing more than a PR stunt to raise the hopes and expectations of Reds’ fans of the playing squad at the managers’ disposal. This, to me, is utter nonsense. When Origi broke through, he was hot property.
Despite mixed fortunes last season, at 22, there is still time on Origi’s side. But not too much. This is a Liverpool team that is having to improve it’s standards year upon year. Klopp is a patient coach and a developer of talent, but Liverpool needs proven quality, especially if they’re to compete in the Champions League. Next season will be key. A player of Origi’s age needs to be playing regular football and he’ll want to do everything he can to ensure he can do that at Liverpool.
Firmino has just landed the club’s iconic number 9 shirt. All the suggestions are that Klopp is building his attack around the Brazilian, a player he greatly admires. Sturridge’s future is less certain but his contributions at the end of last season showed that he is a player that probably starts most games when fully fit.
Origi is not short of competition, but he has shown he can contribute for Liverpool. He faces more competition than he ever has, but he knows, and Klopp knows, that there is a striker in there that, on it’s day, can cause any defence huge problems.