Against AC Milan, the Liverpool forward started for the first time since January and offered an important reminder of his qualities, plus the reality of his situation
There he was: skin and bones and shots and a delicious assist. A real person, an elite professional footballer. It seems silly to tap those words into this keyboard, but it is vital to do so.
The target market for them are the hordes that forget these fundamentals and discuss Divock Origi as nothing more than an inconvenient irritation to get rid of.
Conversations about the 26-year-old could be mistaken for talking about taking out the trash: He is just something disposable, something to be disposed of.
It is a disgusting offshoot of the ballooning transfer window obsession that those on the fringes of a squad are reduced to this treatment.
“GET OUT OF MY CLUB.”
They are hounded online, labelled parasites by actual leeches determined to prove how much they love a team by being… hateful.
Origi, vanquisher of Barcelona in one of the greatest European Cup games ever seen, scorer in the 2019 Champions League final, and of five Merseyside derby goals, deserves better than that.
He made his first start since January for Liverpool, and yet did not play like someone severely starved of minutes in the 3-2 epic against Milan.
“Divock Origi, people forget the good so quick in life and football,” Jurgen Klopp said in the aftermath of an exhilarating victory.
“He’s an outstanding striker and did really well, especially for the long time he didn’t start.”
Origi designed the goal that brought Liverpool back into a match they were strolling before being smacked by two quick Milan strikes, supplying a stunning scooped pass for Mohamed Salah to finish.
That crowned a high-energy performance, complete with intelligent movement, constant pressing and making Milan’s rearguard uncomfortable enough to force mistakes.
Those inside Anfield appreciated the tireless display, affording Origi a standing ovation as he limped off with cramp, his body responding to months without match intensity.
It was a lovely reception for a player who has had a horrible time. And who, all the while facing an uncertain future, was subject to the worst kind of mindless abuse on social media.
Origi, who once said “maybe if I wasn’t a footballer, I’d be a psychologist,” possesses remarkable mental fortitude. Thankfully, too, considering he has needed a flood of it. His ability to come in from the cold, to shake off the feeling of being unwanted, and to perform, has been displayed on loop during his Liverpool career.
Yes, he has also frustrated. Yes, he doesn’t quite fit the club’s attacking make-up. Yes, his story and Liverpool’s should have separated already.
Cut him some slack, though. Competing with Salah, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino for starts is no fun business. Spending the summer scouting for regular minutes elsewhere during a Covid-depressed market was thankless, disappointing, and soul-destroying.
“To be 100 per cent honest, of course I thought he would maybe leave in the summer, but the football world is a crazy place and people obviously forgot how good he is,” Klopp admitted.
“It is really difficult to get into this team. That’s just how it is and I have to decide about different positions, who I bring on, how I want to react before a game.
“That’s why Div was not in; he did nothing wrong. He trains, he gives everything and sometimes you still don’t make it into the squad. That really can happen, especially when everybody is fit.
“But for Milan, he was the right player to do it and he did really well. It’s just nice, I’m really happy I could give him the opportunity and that he used it like he did.”
Origi, who generously funds a scholarship at the University of Liverpool, might not get many more shots. He may fall back into the shadows. That reflects the strength of Liverpool’s starting XI rather than what he has done or what he can do.
Origi is skin and bones: a real person, an elite professional footballer. Not just something disposable, something to be disposed of, and those who frame him that way need to take themselves out: They are the trash.