Now or never for Origi at Liverpool

Now or never for Origi at Liverpool

Can Divock Origi rediscover the form that made the young Belgian a rising star in Jürgen Klopp's early reign at Anfield, and provide proper competition to Roberto Firmino, or has the 2016 injury and Wolfsburg loan sent Origi into an irreversible decline?

Ben Lockett

More than a week remains of the World Cup, but pre-season is already underway for Liverpool.

Those who did not travel to Russia reported for training on Monday as Jürgen Klopp and his staff begin preparing the squad for next season.

The first-team numbers have been bolstered with youngsters, new signings and returning loanees, with the transfer market now in full swing and a number of futures still to be decided.

Divock Origi is one of these players, with the striker’s Liverpool career uncertain as he enters the final year of his current contract.

After Dominic Solanke, fresh from Chelsea, impressed in pre-season last year, Liverpool decided to send Origi out on loan to Bundesliga side Wolfsburg in order for the Belgian international to ensure he had regular first-team football.

For the 2017-18 season, Daniel Sturridge was still at Anfield, Danny Ings was returning from injury and Roberto Firmino was the main man, leaving no space left for Origi.

Unfortunately, after a bright start Origi’s season in Germany faded – not helped by the arrival of a new manager for Wolfsburg (Bruno Labbadia for Martin Schmidt) during the campaign, and a shift in position from central striker to winger.

Origi could only muster six goals for Wolfsburg in thirty-six appearances, a meagre return for a man of his talent.

Ultimately, the 23-year-old’s time in Germany was not as successful or useful as both Liverpool and Origi hoped.

Yet it appears Origi will have one final chance to impress Klopp and re-ignite his Liverpool career.

Technically, the 2018-19 season will be Origi’s fifth as a Liverpool player, if he stays beyond the summer.

Arriving from Lille for around £10m after impressing greatly at the 2014 World Cup for Belgium, Origi remained in France on loan for a year before joining the Reds where he did manage to score double figures in both of his seasons in England, prior to his Wolfsburg loan last year.

When Klopp took over as Liverpool manager in 2015, the German quickly expressed his eagerness to work with Origi, who he had monitored while at Borussia Dortmund.

Origi was a bright talent, playing ahead of Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke for Belgium, with the build and potential to become an all-round striker that Liverpool had not seen since arguably Fernando Torres.

He even briefly became Liverpool’s number one striker during Klopp’s first season at Anfield, often battling Sturridge for the spot throughout the 2015-16 campaign but leading the line for Liverpool during their crucial Europa League tie against Dortmund and finding his peak form during the spring of 2016.

His season was cruelly cut short by Ramiro Funes Mori in Liverpool’s 4-0 thrashing of their Merseyside rivals Everton.

Mori was sent off but the damage to Origi had been done, with injury sidelining the young Belgian until late on in the Europa League final defeat against Sevilla, where he still clearly lacked sharpness.

Klopp preferred Origi to Sturridge during this period as the former was better at protecting the ball, bringing others into the attack and working hard from the front, even if he lacked Sturridge’s predatory instincts and class in the penalty area.

Since then, Roberto Firmino has come on leaps and bounds as Klopp’s new number nine, combining all of the skills and attributes of Origi and Sturridge together and relegating them both to afterthoughts in Liverpool’s attack in the process.

Origi enjoyed a successful scoring streak during the winter of the 2016-17 season, but was always clearly behind Firmino in the pecking order.

Yet it was his fall behind the likes of Sturridge, Solanke and Ings that lead to Origi’s temporary departure last season.

Now, should Origi stay at Liverpool this season, he will have to accept playing second fiddle to Firmino, but the Brazilian star cannot play every game if Liverpool want to challenge on all fronts, particularly the Premier League and Champions League.

The Reds need good depth, and if Origi can knuckle down and rediscover his early 2016 form, then he will be a wonderful alternative to Firmino, and ahead of the Liverpool’s other striking options – which for the moment still include Sturridge, Solanke and Ings, plus the highly-rated youngster Rhian Brewster.

Sturridge and Ings look likely to be sold this summer, and Solanke could do with his own season-long loan, perhaps to a Premier League club who play a similar style to Klopp’s Liverpool.

That would leave Firmino, Origi and Brewster as Liverpool’s only primary strikers, although Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and any other potential attacking signings, such as Nabil Fekir and Moses Simon could operate upfront if needed.

Klopp does not seem interested in signing another striker, therefore Origi has a golden change to cement his place in the Liverpool squad and Klopp’s plans for next season by impressing in pre-season.

More than two years since he peaked in a Liverpool shirt, Origi still has time and talent on his side, but needs to find his belief and confidence again.

He will also need to sign a new contract if he is to stay at Liverpool for the long-term, as Klopp will surely not entertain another contract saga similar to Emre Can, now at Juventus.

This is Origi’s last chance at Liverpool – to stop his career from stalling completely, he needs to seize the summer opportunity on offer from Klopp.