Why Divock Origi Was Liverpool's Most Surprising Player in 2015/16

Jack Lusby@jacklusby_Featured ColumnistMay 29, 2016

DORTMUND, GERMANY - APRIL 07:  Divock Origi of Liverpool celebrates his goal during the UEFA Europa League quarter final first leg match between Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool FC at Signal Iduna Park aka Westfalenstadion on April 7, 2016 in Dortmund, Germany.  (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

The 2015/16 season was full of surprises for Liverpool—most notably the arrival of world-class manager Jurgen Klopp—but on the field of play, the development of 21-year-old striker Divock Origi perhaps stands as the biggest shock of the campaign.

Klopp arrived in October, taking over for the departing Brendan Rodgers, and set in motion an improvement in fortunes on Merseyside, including reaching the finals of the UEFA Europa League and the Capital One Cup.

The German has instilled a winning mentality in the club—despite defeat in both showpiece clashes and an eighth-place Premier League finish—that suggests there is success to come in the years ahead.

At the centre of this projected future glory is Origi, whose rise through the ranks under Klopp will have taken most by surprise in 2015/16.

Lille's Belgium forward Divock Origi reacts at the end of the French L1 football match Nice (OGC Nice) vs Lille (LOSC) on February 2, 2014 at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE        (Photo credit should re
VALERY HACHE/Getty Images

When Liverpool sanctioned the £10 million signing of Origi from Lille in 2014, supporters were well aware of the talent the striker possessed.

Signing for the Reds directly after featuring in all five of Belgium's clashes at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, including a goalscoring display in the Red Devils' 1-0 win over Russia on their way to quarter-finals, Origi was lauded as one of Europe's brightest young prospects.

"He is very gifted and talented. Technically, he’s a monster. More importantly, he is an outstanding worker in training. I see him working like crazy," Belgian centre-back Vincent Kompany enthused, as relayed by the Liverpool Echo's Kristian Walsh.

Belgium's defender Vincent Kompany (L) and Belgium's forward Divock Origi play with the ball during a training session in Salvador on June 30, 2014, on the eve of the 2014 FIFA World Cup round of 16 football match Belgium vs USA.          AFP PHOTO / MART
MARTIN BUREAU/Getty Images

"If he continues in this way, in a few years he will be among the five or 10 best strikers in the world."

This came as high praise from a defender who plays his club football alongside the sensational Sergio Aguero at Manchester City, and Liverpool rightly tucked their potential star away from the spotlight—returning him to Lille on a season-long loan.

But spending the 2014/15 season with the Ligue 1 side, Origi undermined his status as a future world-class striker, scoring eight goals and laying on four assists in 33 league games, and he was named in the Worst Team of the Season by French publication L'Equipe (h/t the Guardian).

Origi finally made the move to Merseyside, who had just signed compatriot Christian Benteke from Aston Villa for £32.5 million, with his confidence drained, poised to play a bit-part role under Rodgers.

The youngster made just four appearances under Rodgers, including 16 minutes of league action, restricted in a left-wing role in September's 3-1 defeat to Manchester United.

While still with his best years ahead of him, Origi threatened to follow the likes of Fabio Borini and Iago Aspas through the Anfield exit.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02:  Divock Origi of Liverpool celebrates as he scores their fourth goal during the Capital One Cup quarter final match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on December 2, 2015 in Southampton, England.  (P
Clive Rose/Getty Images

But following Rodgers' dismissal in October, and Klopp's appointment days later, Origi was liberated, linking up with a manager who had attempted to sign him for former club Borussia Dortmund.

"I wanted to take him to Dortmund but Liverpool bought him. He is a very good player. He is young, very fast, a good technician," Klopp told the club's official website after handing Origi a starting role in October's 0-0 draw away to Tottenham Hotspurhis first game as Liverpool manager.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06:   Divock Origi of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park on December 6, 2015 in Newcastle, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Ima
Stu Forster/Getty Images

"At this moment, he’s not full of experience in the game because he hasn’t played so often, but we will have fun with this player, for sure."

Though limited by injuries to Benteke, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings, Klopp's sentiment, and his refined overview of Origi's talents, suggested that this was not a false promise.

Origi was afforded an increasing amount of game time under Klopp, clocking up 594 minutes on the field across the league, the Europa League and the League Cup, including a hat-trick in December's 6-1 win away to Southampton in the latter, before a troubling knee injury hampered his progress over the turn of the year.

That time on the sidelines may prove to be the making of Origi at Liverpool, however, as a run of excellent performances following his recovery revealed a new, hardened edge.

Liverpool's Belgian striker Divock Origi (R) celebrates after scoring during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 20, 2016. / AFP / PAUL ELLIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIA
PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

"I'm four kilos of muscle heavier after the coach told me that I should play more like a man," Origi told Belgian publication Het Laatste Nieuws (h/t the Mirror) in March, while Klopp told reporters, including the Liverpool Echo's Joe Rimmer in April, that his No. 27 had gone up a shirt size during his time away.

While Origi's displays in 2015 showcased his raw pace, defence-stretching movement and strong work ethic, 2016 saw the striker add a bullish physicality to his game; no longer was he the spry, nimble youngster threatening to emulate Sturridge in years to come—Origi had become a viable contender for a starting role.

Liverpool's Belgian striker Divock Origi celebrates after scoring during the UEFA Europa league quarter-final second leg football match between Liverpool  and Borussia Dortmund at Anfield stadium in Liverpool on April 14, 2016. / AFP / OLI SCARFF        (
OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Origi scored six goals in 17 appearances in 2016, including strikes in both legs of April's Europa League quarter-final clashes with Dortmund, starting ahead of Sturridge—a big call from Klopp that may signal Origi's bright future at Anfield.

The new-look Origi bears resemblance to Klopp's former star striker, Robert Lewandowski: the height, the power, the pace, the confidence and the agility. All he needs now is to add a cutting edge in front of goal.

That this comparison can be made should serve to highlight the surprising development Klopp oversaw in Origi throughout 2015/16, drumming into his young star a confidence that saw him shine against Dortmund, and a fine-tuned fitness regime has visibly moulded him into a complete centre-forward.

With Benteke likely to be sold this summer, according to the Guardian's Sachin Nakrani, and with Klopp showing no indication of signing another striker so far, Origi may even start the 2016/17 campaign as Liverpool's first-choice striker.

This remarkable transformation seemed unfathomable 12 months ago, with Origi serving as the positive surprise of Liverpool's season.

Statistics via Transfermarkt.co.uk.

Related

    Messi Posts Black Lives Matter on Insta

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Messi Posts Black Lives Matter on Insta

    Luis Mazariegos
    via Barca Blaugranes

    Liverpool scouting secrets and how FSG problem became envy of rivals

    Liverpool logo
    Liverpool

    Liverpool scouting secrets and how FSG problem became envy of rivals

    via liverpoolecho

    Everton Offer Leighton Baines Contract Extension

    Full-back would reach 14 seasons with the Toffees

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Everton Offer Leighton Baines Contract Extension

    Andy Hunter
    via the Guardian

    MLS Players Approve Restart Plan for 2020 Season

    World Football logo
    World Football

    MLS Players Approve Restart Plan for 2020 Season

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report