Divock Origi – From certain Anfield exit to Liverpool’s Champions League hero

“I really think it’s a win-win situation. It’s a story really only football can write,” 

Klopp on Origi’s new contract

2nd December 2018 – An uninspiring Liverpool have been held to a draw by a stubborn Everton side going into injury time. Moans and groans surround Anfield. Trent launches a ball into the Blues’ box, headed out to Van Dijk. The defender completely scuffs a volley which goes sky high with Jordan Pickford expected to handle it with ease. But Pickford misjudges it, the ball bounces off the crossbar twice, back into play 2 yards from goal. Of all people, 84th minute substitute Divock Origi meets it with his head past the England goalkeeper and Anfield erupts. 1-0 in the 96th minute, the final kick of the game. The title race is still alive and suddenly, so is the Belgian’s Liverpool career.

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If you told a Reds fan back in December that the Belgian would sign a new contract in July, they wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But this has been a career defining season for him. From deadwood to a big game player, this is the story of Divock Origi’s sensational turnaround

Average at best

Prior to the Pickford’s howler, the now 24 year old had been a bit part player for Jurgen Klopp. 11 goals in all competitions being his best return with the German often preferring Daniel Sturridge as the backup striker. A lack of game time prompted the Belgian international to go out on loan to the Bundesliga in 2017/18. Yet a mediocre 6 goal campaign with Wolfsburg meant expectations were that Origi would leave Anfield in the summer.

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A surprise inclusion in the Merseyside derby bewildered fans when he replaced Roberto Firmino in the 84th minute. But after hitting the bar from 3 yards out, the forward was the hero on the night. Truly the turning point of his career, let alone season.

Despite featuring more, a few quiet months followed for Origi. One consolation goal in a FA Cup defeat to Wolves. A goal in a 5-0 thrashing of Watford. Hardly much to shout about. At this rate, despite his Merseyside heroics, a transfer away was still looking imminent for the former Genk youth player.

But then came May. For many 18 year olds like myself ,a torturous month of A-Levels and what felt like at the time, the end of all existence. But for Divock Origi and Liverpool, it was immense:

The Midas Touch

4th May 2019 – It began at St James’ Park where a well organised Rafa Benitez Newcastle side were determined to derail Liverpool’s title bid. The man loves grinding out results and making it tough for the top teams, even if it was his beloved Liverpool. Klopp’s man really had their work cut out on Tyneside. Both Van Dijk and Salah’s questions were answered by Atsu and Rondon, with the Magpies refusing to give in. But cometh the hour, cometh the man.

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Salah had gone off injured in the 73rd minute and Klopp once again put his trust in Divock Origi, something that would pay its dividends less than 15 minutes later. A controversial free kick won near the byline was curled in by Shaqiri and on the end of it was the 6ft 1 Belgian. 3-2 to the visitors. 3 points. Matching City’s result again. Spirits were high ahead of what required an Anfield miracle to overturn a 3 goal deficit against Lionel Messi’s Barcelona. An also impossible task you’d think without Salah and Firmino? Well Origi had other ideas…

Against all odds

7th May 2019 – The Belgian drew first blood in the 7th minute, tapping in home to commence proceedings. After a relatively uneventful first half after the opener, Gini Wijnaldum flipped the tie on its head, quite literally! Two headers within 2 minutes of each other meant the scousers were level on aggregate. You would think this would be enough of a wake up call for the Blaugrana. Clearly not after a moment of genius of Trent Alexander Arnold.

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The Englishman caught the Catalan defence napping taking a low corner right into the path of Divock Origi who met it first time with a stunning finish that nestled into the top left corner. A truly sensational series of events put the Reds 4-0 up on the night leaving Barcelona completely gobsmacked. The comeback was complete for both Liverpool and Divock Origi. From complete obscurity in December to being at the centre of one of the great Champions League comebacks in Anfield. Of course this would all become insignificant in the long run without the silverware at the end. The only remaining obstacle being a galvinised Spurs side who had had their own fairy tale season. Would Origi have a part to play in Madrid? Well you wouldn’t be reading this if he didn’t!

Icing on the cake

The final was a large anticlimax for neutrals like myself. A dodgy penalty in the first minute of the game gave the Reds an immediate lead. But from then on, it was abysmal. Liverpool couldn’t kill the game off whilst Tottenham couldn’t create anything to get back in. However, let’s not let my personal frustrations take away the Belgian’s moment. It took until the 87th minute, but Divock Origi made sure the European trophy was returning to Anfield after 14 years. A smart left footed finish into the bottom right corner ensured Liverpool had redeemed themselves after last year. The goal was the icing on the cake for Klopp’s side on the night and the cherry on top of Origi’s season.

11th July 2019 – Now we’re here in the summer. Divock Origi has put pen to paper on a richly deserved new deal. Klopp’s men now look to take on the Manchester City juggernaut once again with the hopes of bringing home a first ever Premier League trophy. Who would’ve predicted this? It’s remarkable when we look back now how Jordan Pickford’s mistake was pivotal in both Divock Origi and Liverpool’s season. What a story. That’s why football is the beautiful game…

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