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When the 2018/19 Premier League season kicked off, Divock Origi was an afterthought for most Liverpool fans.
A disappointing loan spell with Wolfsburg preceded the new campaign and, according to countless reports, he was behind Dominic Solanke in the pecking order.
Fast forward 18 months, though, and Origi is a cult icon and a Liverpool legend. The Belgian has been living the dream since December 2018. Used by Jürgen Klopp as back-up to Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, Origi makes the most of his opportunities on the pitch.
Since the start of last season, the Liverpool No.27 has 12 goals and an assist in 1,348 minutes of action. For a little more context as to how impressive that is, over the course of an entire 38-game season that is roughly 30 goals.
Simply put, Origi is the best plug-and-play striker in Europe right now.
Whereas others need a run of matches to get into their rhythm and find form, the 24-year-old is able to come in from the cold and deliver.
Before his start in the Merseyside derby, the former Lille man’s last appearance in the Liverpool starting XI was exactly one month prior.
In the interim, he'd had 11 minutes for Belgium, 25 minutes against Crystal Palace and 15 minutes against Brighton. Yet within six minutes against Everton, Origi had rolled the ball home to give the hosts an early lead.
His movement and acceleration showed no signs of rustiness. He breezed past Yerry Mina to latch onto Mané’s majestic pass and his speed took Michael Keane and Jordon Pickford out of the game.
Origi’s second was perhaps even more remarkable. He raced onto Dejan Lovren’s long pass forward and expertly plucked the ball out of the air. The Belgium international steadied himself before lofting a shot over Pickford. It was Thierry Henry-esque: the nonchalance of it all something else.
It just strengthens Origi's case of being the best in the business at what he does. He isn’t just an impact sub. He isn’t exclusively a poacher. He can be both of those things but he can also hold the ball up, can run the channels, can lead the line and can score a variety of goals.
The 24-year-old isn’t just Firmino’s understudy, he’s back-up to all of the front three and that is what makes him so valuable.
He started the season as a left-winger in place of Mané during the 4-1 win over Norwich City. In that game, Origi nodded home from close range after an intelligent run from out wide.
He started as a striker for a weakened Liverpool team against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup. Fans viewed it as an inconvenience. The feeling is Klopp did, too. Not Liverpool’s No.27, though. He viewed it as an opportunity to add to his storied 12 months.
He fired home a thunderous effort to make it 4-4 on the night after a smart bit of skill prior to the shot. With time running out, the Genk academy graduate then struck an overhead kick to take the game to penalties.
Just another day in the life of Origi.
— Sam McGuire (@SamMcGuire90) December 4, 2019
The Belgian is capable of the sublime. He’s also comfortable with the mundane. He etched his name into Liverpool folklore with his two goals against Barcelona. At first glance, both appear fairly easy but in reality, those chances only come about because he’s in the right place at the right time. The second finish, taking on Trent Alexander-Arnold’s bobbling corner first time, is exquisite.
That game occurred just a few days after he nodded home the winner against Newcastle United after coming off the bench to keep the Premier League title race alive.
What makes all of this even more incredible is Origi appears content with this role in the squad. He’s never mouthing off in the press and asking for more minutes. James Milner called him the most relaxed person in the squad and that marries well with the role he’s been tasked with.
People often talk about how Firmino is arguably the most unique forward in Europe but Origi rivals him for that title. Every club in the world could do with their very own version.