DIVOCK ORIGI celebrated his 21st birthday yesterday. Celebrated is the correct term, the week and a bit leading up to his was by far the most impressive of the young man’s career so far. Goals home and away against the mighty Borussia Dortmund sandwiched a two goal league display in which he only played the second half. Move over hard work and promise, make way for fear and goals.
It’s crazy that he’s only 21. In no other industry, with the possible exception of chimney cleaning, do we rely so heavily on kids. We “signed up” a new Social Media apprentice yesterday. When we mentioned Divock’s birthday he pointed out that Origi was younger than him. We were going to allow our new staff member to ease in gently, but based on Origi’s recent performances I’m thinking of making him CEO.
Aged 20 and 50 weeks the jury was largely still out on Divock amongst the Liverpool fans. Sometimes it takes just 8 days to prove yourself not just to supporters, but also to yourself. It’s not unreasonable to think we will all look back at Origi’s career as pre and post that goal in Dortmund. Since then he’s ran differently, with more purpose and more swagger. Like a bear who’s realised what his claws are for. I’d say defenders beware, but they are looking at him differently already.
I hadn’t seen that explosion coming so quickly, but others had. Jurgen Klopp did, that’s why he started him in the biggest game(s) of the season. Belgium manager Marc Wilmots did, that’s why he played him in the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 ahead of more seasoned internationals. Whilst the rest of us see a gangly kid who isn’t quite sure what he should be doing, top level managers see huge potential that can be moulded and nurtured. That occasionally need throwing in the deep end to flourish.
Jurgen Klopp has done it before, of course. Taking a 19 year old Robert Lewandowski from Poland, persevering with him through a difficult first season and helping turn him into a 30 goal striker. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang too, of course. Slightly older at 23, Aubameyang had been shifted around France and shifted around the football pitch by managers unsure of his position or talent, until Jurgen Klopp turned him into one of the most feared strikers in the world.
No manager can have a 100% strike rate on these things, of course, and never can a manager be 100% sure. There was something in Origi though that got lots of people in the game excited at an early age. Coaches, team mates and his ex-professional father all talked about the development he needed to make but also his speed, power and technique.
I watched Origi play live for Belgium in Russia in the World Cup (did I tell you I went to Brazil for the World Cup?). We watched him closely as we were linked with buying him. I’d love to say we spotted his potential but honestly, despite his late goal to win a dull game, we were left scratching our heads. Was this skinny kid with an unsure touch really ready to play for Liverpool? He didn’t even look big enough for his shirt.
When French newspaper L’Equipe named Origi in their worst team of the 2014/15 season during his extra season at Lille before joining The Reds, it hardly promised what he’d be delivering less than a year later. So what’s happened? He’s bulked up that’s for sure. But sometimes you just need a manager to believe in you, to simplify your mind and allow you to concentrate on what you are good at. To see you as someone who fits in with what he is trying to achieve. Unless you are Lionel Messi, you need a bit of luck, too.
Divock Origi’s season, and therefore potentially his football career, could have been very different had Brendan Rodgers stayed in charge. Would Rodgers have been more likely to persist with Christian Benteke, having spent so much money on him. Would he have been more successful in buying a forward than Klopp was in January, pushing Divock down the pecking order? Indeed how might Klopp himself have used Origi had Alex Teixeira been available to him?
Not unlike many young strikers currently staring in the Premier League, sometimes a talented player needs the dice to roll their way before an opportunity presents itself. After then though, it is up to him. Divock Origi has received good advice, good coaching and a great opportunity but it is he who has worked, listened, lifted, improved and scored goals when it matters most. Who has been prepared to sacrifice himself for the team as well as hold his nerve when it mattered. Just 21 years and a day old. He now has the world at his feet.
Some quotes on Divock Origi as a teenager:
“I have played with him and I can say he is not the fastest of players but he is excellent on the ball”. – Jackson Kariuki ( Former JMJ Academy player, spent two years each in the Youth Academies of Anderlecht and Germinal Beerschot) – 13/01/12
“Once he gets the ball on his feet it’s near impossible to get it.
He is a good player with a great future…and the French game will suit him best” – Jackson Kariuki 13/01/12
“He’s been with us for some time but it is clear that in training he has many qualities. He goes fast and is very technical” – Nolan Roux (Teammate at Lille, now at Saint-Etienne) – 03/02/12 (Lille debut)
“This is a real ray of sunshine” – Benoît Pedretti (Teammate at Lille, now at Nancy) – 03/02/13 (After Origis Lille debut)
“He trained with us several times, that’s all. He is powerful and interesting in front of goal…but he must keep his feet on the ground. There is still a lot of work, especially at the tactical level. The road is still long for him.” – Rudi Garcia (Manager at Lille, currently without a job) – 03/02/13 (Lille debut)
“Divock is already much better than I was at his age. He is particularly rapid and technically sophisticated” – Mike Okoth (His Dad. Ex-International, 120 caps for Kenya) – 12/02/13
“I know Origi very well. He’s a good striker and I think its bad luck to Kenya now that he’ll be representing Belgium in the World Cup” – Dennis Oliech (current Dubai CSC striker, 68 caps for Kenya) – 15/05/14
“Even most of the media didn’t know who he was when I called him up. I love launching young kids. He’s in a good space right now. And everyone knows who he is.” – Marc Wilmots (Belgium manager) 30/06/14
“It was not an easy match but I think we deserved to win it. ”He (Origi) is in a good space right now, he’s 19 years old. It was a bit of a surprise since he was an unknown before I selected him. Now everyone knows who he is.” – Marc Wilmots (After Origis winner vs Russia WC ’14) – 22/06/14
“He has a lot of quality, he can score goals, he’s fast and he has good technique. He is young, [against Russia] he showed everything.” – Marouane Fellaini 30/06/14
“He has everything to be world class. He’s super fast, has a wonderful touch, he’s a good size and is aggressive. I’ve seen enough of him over the course of the last couple of seasons to think this is a kid who, coming into the right environment, can genuinely be world class. He can light up world football, for sure.” – Brendan Rodgers 15/09/14