Nathan Salt profiles Belgian international striker Divock Origi, a player heavily linked with a move to Liverpool...
The 60-second story
His strike-partner at Lille calls him ‘Baby Kluivert’. His lighting pace is enough to have Olympic sprinters running scared. And, having scored on both his club and international debut, Divock Okoth Origi has announced himself as the next Belgian starlet in a golden generation.
His World Cup squad inclusion raised eyebrows with the striker – entrenched in Kenyan football roots with his father, Mike Origi, a mainstay in the national side – unknown, not only with viewers, but also team-mates.
With Romelu Lukaku proving a damp squib in Brazil, Origi looks likely to be a regular in the Belgium team for years to come. It hasn’t taken long for the big clubs to sit up and take notice of the Lille attacker with Liverpool close to completing a deal for the talented teenager.
Why you need to know him
• Name: Divock Origi
• Age: 19
• Date of Birth: 18/04/1995
• Position: Striker
• Height: 6ft 1in
• Clubs: LOSC Lille (40 apps, 6 goals)
• International: Belgium (7 caps, 1 goal)
Origi is a young footballer that has grown up idolising his footballing family, from his internationally capped father to his cousin Arnold, the current Kenyan No.1 after strong performances in Norway.
Born in Ostend, a provincial, coastal city located in the Flemish province of West Flanders, Origi’s professional opportunities were severely limited.
Two hours away from Ostend sits K.R.C Genk’s Cristal Arena, with an esteemed youth academy adjacent. Genk was the perfect place for Origi with the club’s academy having brought through stars such as soon-to-be Chelsea starter Thibaut Courtois.
Origi followed in his father’s footsteps by joining the career ladder at Genk’s footballing academy. He was converted from a defensive midfielder to a versatile striker before opting to leave Belgium at the tender age of 15 – a clear sign of his drive and commitment - to join 2010/11 Ligue 1 champions, LOSC Lille, a club famed for bringing through breathtaking talents such as Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye, Kevin Mirallas and Lucas Digne.
Careers can take wildly different paths depending on informed choices players make; Divock Origi chose two clubs which are excellent at nurturing young, raw talents, honing them closer to the elusive ‘finished article’.
He has always been a player beyond his years and in 2012, despite being two years younger than most of his team-mates, was embedded into the Belgian Under-19 side after impressing national coaches since he joined the international scene at U15 level.
His physical stature allowed him to compete with opposition defenders two years his senior but a blend of his frightening pace and degree of arrogance on the field saw him excel. He notched 10 goals in 19 games for the U19s; a cameo in the U21 setup proved simply to be the curtain raiser for Origi’s surprise World Cup inclusion having never been involved in the first-team squad throughout qualifying.
Origi has proved on multiple occasions that he is a player who takes his chance to full effect. Taken to Brazil as a back-up to Romelu Lukaku after fellow forward Christian Benteke was ruled out with a torn Achilles in early April, Origi was surprisingly Belgium’s brightest attacking talent in Brazil, an argument aided by the fact he displaced Lukaku in the starting XI against both USA and Argentina.
It would be fair to suggest that Divock Origi is the epitome of Belgian football right now: young with bags of talent, but unique to this current crop he possesses, like many of his colleagues, a swagger which suggests he does not fear mistakes.
Origi has laid the foundations for a rich career in the game at the highest level with the footballing elite left salivating over his cool contributions this summer.
He certainly knows how to make an entrance, scoring on his senior debut for club and country: two strikes of different form – one header, one six-yard snapshot – but both equally clinical and equally crucial.
If his recent performances, both at international and club level, have showcased one aspect of Origi’s game, it’s that the 19-year old possesses blistering pace. With a growing tendency to drift wide in games, Origi thrives on one-on-one scenarios with opposition full-backs, as he subconsciously knows that he will breeze past most.
A player who is made for a counter-attacking style, his majestic first touch is nigh on perfect each time he finds himself in possession of the ball. His goal against Evian in the last campaign demonstrates that he is more than just a target-man, picking the ball up 45 yards away from goal before beating the retreating full-back and curling the ball beyond the keeper exquisitely.
His skill set has developed immensely throughout the 2013/14 campaign, with the Belgian teenager using stepovers aplomb. But, arguably, his greatest asset is his height. Standing at 6ft 1in, Origi has proven useful in the air. Summoned from the bench in Ligue 1 with his Lille side one down to Troyes, Origi rescued a draw just six minutes after coming on, nodding home Dimitri Payet’s pinpoint cross.
International coach Marc Wilmots recently spoke about the player’s mental state; rapid rises for young players often proves synonymous with reports that they have been ‘fazed’ or ‘affected’ by newfound publicity, yet that appears wide of the mark with the Lille forward. “[Origi] is in a good place at this moment,” Wilmots added after the teenager netted his first World Cup finals goal against a well-drilled Russia side.
The Belgian’s versatility is also a major asset that has thrust him into the gaze of a hatful of top-club managers. Deployed in a 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and a 4-5-1, Origi’s adaptability across the front-line suggests his impending move to Anfield could prove a major coup for Rodgers’ interchangeable attacking force.
At 19, Origi still displays a tendency to drift in and out of games, shown most recently against Argentina in the World Cup quarter-final defeat to the South Americans. His decision-making is, at times, questionable and moreover, Origi went 15 games without a goal for Lille last season. He needs to become more clinical in front of goal if he wants to announce himself as one of Europe’s brightest young forwards.
“He is a huge prospect and still only young,” said Liverpool and Belgium keeper Simon Mignolet. “When he came onto the pitch [against Russia] he showed his class and helped us win the game. He is an exciting player.” Belgium team-mate Mignolet singled out Christian Benteke’s replacement in the squad after an 88th-minute winner in the Maracana against Capello’s Russia secured a vital three points for Wilmots’ side.
Did you know
When Origi smashed home the winner against Russia in Rio’s Maracana stadium, he wrote his name into the record books, as he became both Belgium’s youngest ever scorer at a World Cup and also the first ever player of Kenyan origin to score at a World Cup. If only USA’s Julian Green hadn’t taken the title of ‘Youngest ever World Cup goalscorer’ off Origi eh.
What happens next
• Shooting: 8
• Heading: 8
• Passing: 5
• Tackling: 5
• Pace: 9
• Dribbling: 8
• Creativity: 7
• Work-rate: 7
Having gone from an unknown to gossip column regular in the space of Belgium’s World Cup campaign, Origi is England-bound if reports are to be believed. Liverpool are in pole-position for the gangly-striker’s signature with rumours that he will return to current club Lille on loan as part of the deal that will take him to Anfield.
“[Origi] has the qualities to play for a good team in the Premier League and he shows it every game,” Jan Vertonghen said about the new kid on Belgium’s block. “Origi is a bit like [Adnan] Januzaj, there’s no pressure, and he plays like he’s on the streets.” Origi has shown flashes on the global stage thus far, now it’s time for him and Januzaj to take England by storm.