Ahead of his inevitable departure this summer, Divock Origi doesn’t need to do anything more to cement his place in Liverpool history.
Super-sub. Champion of Europe. The go-to man. The Belgian’s place in the hearts of Kopites everywhere was secured after their 2019 Champions League triumph with those goals against Barcelona and Tottenham, not to mention that late winner over Everton in December 2018.
Even last December when he came on to score a stoppage-time winner at Wolves, Origi earned plaudits from all angles. Yet now, he can leave Merseyside with his head held even higher – and who knows if there’s one more fairytale moment to come?
Divock Origi made the difference from the bench in Liverpool’s win over Everton last month
Jurgen Klopp praised the Belgian forward for changing the game after he was brought on
For an hour in the recent Merseyside derby, the title challengers were toiling against their old foes from across Stanley Park. Frank Lampard’s relegation-threatened side had come with a plan to disrupt, delay and sit back. And it was working.
Cue Divock. Coming on alongside Luis Diaz – a fifth forward-player ahead of Origi in the pecking order – the 27-year-old’s impact was to be a focal point at the top of the pitch.
Nearly immediately, a one-two with Mo Salah fashioned space in the box barely experienced in the preceding 60 minutes. A cross to the back post followed and Andy Robertson’s header across goal broke the deadlock.
Fast-forward to minute 85, with the game stretched as the Toffees pursued an unlikely equaliser. As Diaz miscued an elaborative scissor kick attempt from Jordan Henderson’s cross, the ball bounced fortuitously into the six-yard box.
Right place, right time. How many times have we said that about Origi during his seven-year stop-start Anfield career? A header into the roof of the net saw Origi net his first goal of 2022.
Origi’s introduction changed the game in Liverpool’s favour against rivals Everton last month
Having played a part in the first, striker Origi notched his sixth Merseyside derby goal
Jubilation in the Kop, once again on Derby day, was down to Origi. Razor sharp viewers on Sky Sports might have noticed an interesting parallel which, though tongue-in-cheek, sums up Origi’s elevated status in Liverpool.
‘Where do you want your statue, Divock Origi?’ bellowed ex-Red Jamie Carragher, in stark similarity to Gary Neville’s line following Vincent Kompany’s title-clinching rocket for Manchester City against Leicester in 2019.
Both Belgian, yes. One was a club captain, three-time title winner and defensive linchpin. The other? A back-up with an eye for goal.
His crashing header ensured that the Reds kept pace with Manchester City in the title hunt
Origi’s statistics at Liverpool are impressive given his lack of minutes. Even this season, he has scored six goals in all competitions in 16 appearances, though just five of those have been roles from the start.
Overall since his debut in 2015, he has scored 41 goals in 173 appearances and after a period which saw him play second-fiddle to Daniel Sturridge as Klopp arrived at the club, he now seems more like sixth, maybe even seventh in line for a role up top.
Origi got the ball rolling in the famous Europa League quarter-final comeback in 2016 against Borussia Dortmund, stabbing home from close range in a game remembered for Dejan Lovren’s late winner.
He has had moments to shine.
Origi scored the first goal in Liverpool’s European comeback against Borussia Dortmund
The following season, where he appeared more regularly as a replacement, Origi scored big goals against Sunderland, West Ham and Everton, whom he has now scored against six times in total – only Steven Gerrard has a Premier League record more superior.
Yet the most famous of these was the start of his real love affair with the Liverpool supporters.
After spending the 2017-18 season out on loan at Wolfsburg, Origi had not played a single Premier League minute when he came on in the 84th minute of the Merseyside Derby at Anfield in December 2018.
With a title-chasing Reds being held, all hope looked lost in the dying moments when Virgil van Dijk’s volley sailed high towards the goal.
Origi watches on as Jordan Pickford makes a mess of a looping volley around his crossbar
The forward headed home when the ball rebounded to win the Merseyside Derby in 2018
Origi is swarmed by team-mates as Klopp sprints in celebration across the pitch
You know the rest. Everton keeper Jordan Pickford made a mess of it and Origi – right place, right time – was there to pounce, heading into an open net.
Cue bedlam all around, to the point where a perplexed Origi actually got the ball out of the net and started running towards the centre-circle, before being surrounded by team-mates. Klopp was too busy on the other side of the pitch, hugging Alisson Becker.
Later that season, in May, he starred in one of the most famous Champions League comebacks ever against Barcelona, scoring the first and the last goal in an incredible 4-0 victory.
The latter strike was a moment of pure instinct after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s ingenious quick corner, first time into the top corner.
Again, like the Europa League final three years earlier, Origi was consigned to a place on the bench for the final against Tottenham. But this time, his impact was felt.
As the Reds nervously sat on a 1-0 lead in the closing minutes, the ball broke to the Belgian on the edge of the box and he rifled home a left foot shot.
Liverpool’s super sub had done it again.
His goal from May 2019 at the Kop end against Barcelona will go down in Anfield folklore
Origi also scored in the Champions League final against Tottenham to seal the Reds’ triumph
He scored twice more against Everton in the title-winning 2019-20 campaign but despite taking his opportunities, he has struggled to regularly start in recent years.
Has he ever complained of his lack of match-time? Has he ever been disruptive on the training ground or in the dressing room? A model pro, Origi should not be short of suitors this summer.
Klopp said after his goal on April 24: ‘He is a legend on and off the pitch. He is fantastic footballer for me, he is a world-class striker, our best finisher, he always was and everyone would say the same.
‘He does it in training and then not in squad and that is really hard, a really hard decision to make.
‘The boys all are responsible for the situation we are in. Everybody loves Div and rightly so. He was again very decisive.’
Klopp called Origi his side’s best finisher and also tipped him to flourish anywhere
AC Milan lead the race to sign Origi, who scored against the Italian side back in December
There is certainly an argument that he has not had a fair crack of the whip. He has only ever served Liverpool with big, match-turning, season-defining moments.
And yet when you look at the Reds front-line riddled with stars – Salah, Mane, Jota, Diaz, Firmino – it is no wonder the somewhat one-dimensional striker has found starting berths hard to come by. Impactful as a substitute, less so from the start.
The squad-depth is simply a sign of Liverpool’s stature across Europe right now, not to mention one of the best sides in the club’s history.
Speculation is rife that AC Milan – who Origi scored a San Siro winner against in December – are leading the race to sign the Belgium international on a free transfer this summer. Aston Villa have also been mooted as a destination closer to home.
Yet as the Reds chase an unprecedented quadruple, Origi’s Merseyside story is not done yet. In the coming weeks, maybe even tonight at Villarreal, should Klopp need a goal, a moment, there’ll be no prizes for guessing who’ll his thoughts will turn to on the bench behind him.