The joy of Divock Origi, Liverpool’s ‘legend’ and Everton’s chief tormentor

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These may be the last days in the age of Divock. It has been an unlikely era with an unpromising beginning. It has become a golden time for Liverpool. And, indeed, for a man who Jurgen Klopp has come to call “the legend.”

Not many legends are the sixth-choice forward. Then again, even at the home of the original super sub, there have not been too many cult heroes quite like Divock Origi. There is a temptation to suggest that, before picking the all-time Liverpool XI, it makes sense to name David Fairclough – the Reds’ super sub from 1975-83 – and Origi on the bench. They have been the specialist rescuers and, when it seemed as though Everton’s obduracy might hinder their neighbours’ title challenge, Klopp knew where to turn.

Enter Original Some 35 minutes later, they shared a hug in the center circle. Two minutes after his introduction of him and with his first touch of him, Origi was the meat in the sandwich of a one-two with Mohamed Salah, who crossed for Andy Robertson to head in. Victory was sealed by an Original header. His sixth Merseyside derby goal may be his last: because he could go and perhaps, if Everton are relegated, their nemesis may have made himself redundant.

He has spent years exacting revenge on them for Ramiro Funes Mori’s awful challenge in 2016, when he suffered ankle ligament damage. When he trotted on to torment them again, there was an inevitability but also a certain nostalgia. He was already revisiting his past from him.

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It can feel ludicrous that only Steven Gerrard has scored more Premier League goals in Merseyside derbies than Origi. In this, as in Liverpool’s history, he is the likeable everyman in the company of the greats. Perhaps he is often underestimated: he seems to bound on with enthusiasm yet somehow makes things happen. There may be many forwards with more quality, but few with his skills from him as a catalyst.

Origi celebrates his goal to clinch the points at Anfield

(Getty)

“He was again very decisive,” said Klopp. That is a skill in itself. His manager argued he has others. Salah has scored 155 goals for him, Sadio Mane 116, Roberto Firmino 98 and Origi 41. Klopp however insisted he is the best at putting the ball in the back of the net. He explained: “He is a fantastic footballer for me, he is a world-class striker, our best finisher, he always was and everyone would say the same when you see him do these kind of things in training.”

Part of the joy of Origi, however, has long been the perception that he wasn’t world class or anything remotely close. Rather, he was the endearing understudy who destroyed Barcelona in a Champions League semi-final and, for good measure, scored a Champions League final goal. From Everton in 2018 to Newcastle in 2019 to Wolves in 2021, he can be the master of the late goal. “Everybody loves Div and rightly so,” said Klopp. “He is a legend on and off the pitch.”

Divock Origi of Liverpool celebrates with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah after scoring at Molineux

(Getty)

Increasingly, he is off the pitch. These were his first Premier League minutes for him for two months. He hasn’t started a league game all season. He has played just 102 of Liverpool’s 2,970 top-flight minutes; small workload, big impact.

“He doesn’t always make the squad which is ridiculous, but he is there when we need him every time,” said Klopp, the man who makes those ridiculous decisions. It is in part because of Liverpool’s greater strength in depth. Origi’s greatest feats came when he was the first reserve to Klopp’s definitive front three. Then Diogo Jota pushed him down the pecking order. Then Luis Diaz did likewise. If Origi was Liverpool’s ideal 12th man, there are times when he is in effect the 21st, the super sub who is not even a substitute.

It is a reason why he could go in the summer when his contract is up, in search of the first-team football that has eluded him. Klopp is bemused Liverpool did not receive offers last summer: perhaps Origi was pigeonholed as a big-club substitute by those looking for a starter for a mid-table club. Many of them don’t need anyone to terrorize Barcelona because they will never play Barcelona. Klopp has both given him a bit-part role and sounded like his greatest champion. “He will explode wherever he goes,” he said. Time and again, Origin and Liverpool have had a blast.

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www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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