From league titles to European crowns, no team ever lifted a trophy without the help of a full squad. Just look at Divock Origi.
When injuries start to pile up, or you’re on the ropes and in need of some inspiration from the bench, managers often turn to those players lurking in the shadows for inspiration.
Often, those unlikely saviours inexplicably come to the rescue time and time again for their side, forging reputations as “cult heroes” despite their flaws.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did it for Manchester United in 1999, stepping off the bench to complete an incredible injury-time comeback over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. Shola Ameobi did it for Newcastle by haunting Sunderland time and again. And, now, Origi is doing it for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
This time last year, few could have seen just how influential this seemingly washed-up Belgian talent would go on to be. Origi failed to fulfil his early promise at Anfield and had been farmed out on loan to Bundesliga side Wolfsburg for the 2017/18 season, managing just six goals in 34 games across all competitions for the German side.
Even during the first half of last season, Origi was doing anything but set the world alight and rumours of an exit from the club were gathering pace. Enter the Merseyside derby.
On December 2 of last year, Everton put in what is widely regarded as their most expansive, impressive performance at Anfield in years. Instead of rolling over at their illustrious rivals, or piling men behind the ball, Marco Silva’s side controlled the game and dictated play for large spells, with Andre Gomes and Yerry Mina both coming close to scoring. Still, heading deep into added time, the score remained tied at 0-0.
Origi had replaced Roberto Firmino in the 84th minute, largely to moans and groans from the Liverpool faithful. Why replace a key cog in your front three with a player who hasn’t scored a league goal all season and is clinging onto his Anfield career for dear life?
But with the 96th minute ticking by, Jordan Pickford inexplicably palmed the ball off his own crossbar, from which it bounced back into play and right onto the head of Origi, who didn’t need a second invitation to make it 1-0 and blow the roof off of Anfield. From that moment on, things would never be the same for the Belgian.
Fast forward to May and not only were Liverpool locked in a title race with Manchester City, but they also had the seemingly impossible task of overcoming a 3-0 deficit to Barcelona in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final. Once again Origi was the unlikely hero, scoring Liverpool’s first and last goals as the Reds pulled off a remarkable 4-0 win over the Blaugrana; his winning goal was particularly iconic, sweeping home a genius quick corner from Trent Alexander-Arnold. Incredibly, these were his first and second Champions League goals, ever.
“I really think it’s a win-win situation. It’s a story really only football can write.”
The fun didn’t stop there, though, and you kind of just knew Origi would find himself on the scoresheet in the final, bagging Liverpool’s second goal in a 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid. Despite drawing a weirdly negative review from Andrea Pirlo, Origi became only the second-ever Belgian to score in a Champions League final after Yannick Carrasco, and well and truly sealing his place in Liverpool folklore – not that he hadn’t already.
Origi has only scored three goals so far this season, but therein lies the beauty of it all: two of those strikes came during Liverpool’s incredible League Cup win against Arsenal, making it 4-4 in the 62nd minute after one of the most technically accomplished turns you’re likely to see, then 5-5 – five all – in the 93rd minute via a shinned scissor-kick. He’s that bit of chaos in the organised, tactical world of football. Someone Klopp can throw on to give the Anfield crowd that air of expectation that something is going to happen.
His touch isn’t that of Firmino’s, he can’t dribble like Sadio Mane, and he is nowhere near as clinical as Mohamed Salah but, somehow, Origi always seems to be there for Klopp when the chips are down and that’s all you need to be a cult hero. Score iconic goals and save your team when its biggest stars can’t.