By Anthony Evans @anthonyevans97
It’s the 87thminute of the 2019 UEFA Champions League Final. Liverpool lead Spurs by a penalty scored by Mohamed Salah in the opening minutes of the game. All the Reds have to do is see out the final minutes and they will claim “Old Big Ears” for the sixth time in the club’s history.
Nerves were jangling, but an unlikely hero quickly put them to bed. Spurs fail to clear a set piece and Joel Matip helps the ball on to a teammate who then fires it low into the bottom corner past Hugo Lloris, sending the red half of the Wanda Metropolitano wild. That teammate was Divock Origi.
News coming from Merseyside this week has suggested that Jurgen Klopp has absolutely no intention of selling the Belgian striker this summer. And given what Origi produced for the Reds in the latter stages of the season, it’s hard to argue with him.
We all know the narrative, but let’s take a few minutes to recap. With Daniel Sturridge constantly on the sidelines, Divock Origi became the German’s main man up top, when he took the reigns following Brendan Rodger’s dismissal in October 2015. The former Lille striker was pivotal in Liverpool’s run to the Europa League Final in 2016, scoring the opening goal in the quarter final first leg away tie to Dortmund, and then another one in that extraordinary return leg at Anfield which saw the Reds fight back from 3-1 down to reach the final.
But a cruel injury picked up that April during the win over Everton in the Merseyside Derby ended Origi’s season and halted what had been an impressive run of form for the Belgian, who was really starting to show his potential. More importantly Liverpool lost the Europa League final to Sevilla in Basle, and the wait for a trophy went on.
The following summer saw Jurgen Klopp made additions and alterations to his playing system that became known as his “heavy metal”, attacking football. When Origi returned to full fitness, he found himself unable to break into the team and dislodge the front three of Phillippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and new signing, Sadio Mane. Over the course of the 2016/17 campaign, the Belgian had to settle for appearances off the bench as the Reds secured a place in the Champions League for the following season.
This achievement enabled Klopp to strengthen his squad even further, and Mohamed Salah was brought in from Roma, pushing Origi even further down the pecking order. On the final day of the 2017 summer transfer window, he was sent out on loan to Wolfsburg in Germany and even his most ardent admirers accepted that his Liverpool career was effectively over. A disappointing return of six goals in 34 appearances during that loan spell did him no favours and it was expected that he would not be part of Klopp’s plans for the 2018/19 season.
Surprisingly, no transfer away from Merseyside materialised, and the striker was included in both the Premier League and the Champions League squads for the ensuing campaign. He came on as a late substitute and sent Anfield into raptures with an injury time winner in the Merseyside Derby, having only made a small handful of cameo appearances in the first half of last season. Origi repeated the trick with another goal of the bench in a demolition of Watford at Anfield in February, and in dramatic fashion with a last gasp header at Newcastle in May to keep the Reds in the hunt for the title.
But once again it was in Europe that Divock Origi showcased his credentials to be a “big game player”. With the Reds needing to overturn a 3-0 first leg defeat in Barcelona, Origi grabbed a brace in arguably Anfield’s finest ever night to help his side reach their first Champions League Final in 12 years, and Klopp’s second European final as LFC boss.
His strike in the final in Madrid immediately secured himself a place in the club’s history books. His rise from a long injury lay-off, as well as being deemed surplus to requirements and sent out on loan, to scoring the goal that sealed Liverpool’s sixth European Cup, is nothing short of remarkable.
Origi has shown on several occasions in the last three years that he can be relied on to pop up with the goods in those moments when the odds are against us. Reds fans, and probably Origi himself, know that he won’t be one of the first names on the team sheet in Klopp’s preferred line up, but his importance to the squad is unquestionable.
The news from Anfield this week hopefully means that the Klopp and the club hierarchy are looking to extend the Belgian’s contract which expires in just 12 months time.
Whether the striker harbours more personal ambitions of being able to establish himself as a leading talisman are unknown, but his recent exploits have silenced his critics and earned him a place in the hearts of Kopites, and the history of Liverpool Football Club forever.
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