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Divock Origi deserves renewed Liverpool role despite failed Wolfsburg loan

Divock Origi endured a difficult campaign on loan with Wolfsburg in 2017/18, but Jurgen Klopp should still earmark him for a Liverpool role this season.

When Origi arrived on Merseyside in 2015, after a season back with Lille, he was considered a top prospect.

He’d already starred for Belgium at the World Cup in Brazil, and was making headway as a teenager in Ligue 1.

His captain for the Red Devils, Vincent Kompany lavished praise on the forward soon after a deal was agreed with the Reds in 2014, describing him as a “monster” who would “work like crazy.”

“If he continues in this way, in a few years he will be among the five or 10 best strikers in the world,” the Man City centre-back enthused, highlighting the potential at Origi’s disposal.

Origi joined Liverpool under the custodianship of Brendan Rodgers, but Kompany assessment suggested he would be readymade for Klopp’s intensive, overwhelming system.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 1, 2017: Liverpool's Divock Origi celebrates scoring the third goal against Everton during the FA Premier League match, the 228th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In two seasons under the German, Origi scored 21 goals and laid on seven assists in 76 games, playing an integral role in both the run to the Europa League final in 2015/16 and the push for a top-four finish in 2016/17.

But with his opportunities limited in the first weeks of last season a loan move to Wolfsburg was sanctioned, with the Bundesliga side paying a £6 million fee for his services.

Crucially, Liverpool rejected any attempt to include an option to buy in their agreement, also negotiating a clause that would allow Klopp to recall Origi in the January transfer window.

Heading into pre-season, however, the manager’s stance on the 23-year-old remains to be seen, with the landscape shifting during his time in Saxony.

But the striker deserves to buck the trend and secure a role at Anfield this campaign.

Wolfsburg's Divock Origi during the Bundesliga soccer match VfL Wolfsburg vs Hertha BSC in the Volkswagen Arena in Wolfsburg, Germany, 5 November 2017. - NO WIRE SERVICE ? Photo: Thomas Eisenhuth/dpa-Zentralbild/ZB

While Origi had been a regular feature under Klopp in his first two seasons at Liverpool, only 36 of his 76 appearances came as part of the German’s starting lineup.

Joining Wolfsburg gave him the opportunity to stake his claim as a first-choice forward, with his time at the Volkswagen Arena primed to maximise his potential.

His manager was Andries Jonker, whose reputation in youth development saw him appointed as head of Arsenal‘s academy in 2014, and beyond Mario Gomez (18), no other player had scored more than four goals the season prior.

Origi vowed to “develop further” in the Bundesliga, and Jonker was certainly impressed with his physicality, joking how one of Wolfsburg’s U23s injured themselves simply running into him in a friendly.

But with Die Wolfe set for another relegation battle, Origi struggled to make a consistent impact, scoring seven and assisting three in 36 games in all competitions.

His nadir arguably came when he was substituted after just 42 minutes in March’s 3-0 loss to Hoffenheim, with German outlet SportBuzzer criticising his efforts as “obstinate and listless.”

Wolfsburg's Divock Origi ahead of the German Bundesliga soccer match between VfL Wolfsburg and Hanover 96 in the Volkswagen Arena in Wolfsburg, Germany, 9 September 2017. Photo: Silas Stein/dpa

But there were certainly mitigating circumstances behind his failure at Wolfsburg, with that disappointing afternoon at Rhein-Neckar-Arena coming under his third manager of the season.

Inner turmoil and a lack of results saw Wolfsburg cycle through Jonker, Martin Schmidt and Bruno Labbadia over the course of the campaign.

These were different managers with different philosophies, and for a loanee in particular, this offered little guarantee of a prominent role.

Changes at his temporary club also saw Origi’s duties adjusted throughout, with the departure of Gomez in January depriving him of his attacking foil and demanding he step up as leading man.

This has come into consideration as Klopp prepares to assess both the Belgian and Dominic Solanke during pre-season, weighing up his options in support of Roberto Firmino.

Solanke has promise, and rounded off a difficult season with his first goal in the 4-0 rout of Brighton, but Origi has proven quality, and is already attuned to the system.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 1, 2017: Liverpool's Divock Origi celebrates scoring the third goal against Everton during the FA Premier League match, the 228th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It has been widely reported Klopp is not in the market for an out-and-out No. 9 this summer, instead seeking alternatives that can operate in a variety of roles across the forward line.

Origi has already played on the left wing, right wing and as a striker both on his own and in a pair, and his pace, power, skill and eye for goal make him a fine candidate.

He was Liverpool’s fourth-highest goalscorer in both 2015/16 and 2016/17, netting 10 in his first season and 11 in his second, averaging one every 177 minutes.

His industry is certainly underrated, with his ability to defend from the front complemented by an improving awareness of when and where to press.

With fitness paramount, his time spent working at UCLA during the off-season suggests he is eager to arrive at Melwood on Monday in the best shape possible.

It is worth noting Danny Ings also trained at the same facility in Los Angeles, but while he is seemingly preparing to impress potential buyers, Klopp’s willingness to test Origi in pre-season could highlight this as an endearment tactic.

BERLIN, GERMANY - Saturday, July 29, 2017: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi after a preseason friendly match celebrating 125 years of football for Liverpool and Hertha BSC Berlin at the Olympic Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Ings is not the only striker set to leave this summer, with Daniel Sturridge available after finding himself at odds with Klopp’s system and, unfortunately, his own fitness.

Furthermore, with the fast-tracked Rhian Brewster not set to return until late August, and Firmino still at the World Cup with Brazil, pre-season sets up a clear head-to-head between Origi and Solanke.

Origi has just one year left on his current contract, ensuring this is a make-or-break summer on Merseyside, but with reported earnings of around £58,000 a week he is far from a draining asset.

He is seemingly not a conflicting character, either: Origi is an intelligent, well-spoken and hardworking young player who Klopp has previously shown a fondness for on and off the pitch.

A low-cost, experienced forward who could deputise for Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah while also providing Klopp with a different option in a range of systems, he is currently more suited than Solanke.

Having only turned 23 in April, there is still scope for Origi to put his difficult season with Wolfsburg behind him and develop into a long-term fixture under Klopp at Liverpool.

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