Divock Origi came off the bench to play a part in both Liverpool goals against Everton. Jürgen Klopp may now have to rip up his transfer plans as a result.
You just knew what was going to happen as soon as he entered the pitch. You knew that by the end of the game, Divock Origi would score against Everton. There was just no way the match would end without the Liverpool cult hero finding the back of the net.
And so it proved.
Given half an hour on the pitch at Anfield, Origi scored Liverpool’s second, and the clincher, in the 2-0 win with just five minutes remaining. It was his sixth goal of the season in all competitions, in just 563 minutes of football.
Origi’s introduction changed the nature of the game. The Merseyside derby was still 0-0 when Origi and Luis Díaz entered the fray. Everton had disrupted Liverpool all game, stifling the Reds and refusing to allow Jürgen Klopp’s side to get into any sort of rhythm
It took Origi about two minutes to make his presence felt. Mohamed Salah rolled the ball into his feet inside the Everton box, and as he held off the challenge of Allan he waited for Salah to retrieve the ball. The Egyptian then floated in a cross to the back post for Andy Robertson to head home and break the deadlock.
Everton simply didn’t know how to handle Origi, who was a much different threat than Sadio Mané or Diogo Jota. Origi has more goals and assists in the Premier League this season than Man City’s £100m signing Jack Grealish, despite the Belgian playing some 1,500 minutes fewer. Moreover, only Steven Gerrard has scored more home goals against Everton than Origi.
It was in all likelihood his last goal in a derby, and perhaps for Liverpool altogether, with Origi almost certain to join Milan on a free transfer at the end of the season. Prior to this game, the prevailing feeling was probably that there would be no direct replacement signed.
In his post-match interview, Klopp was effusive in his praise for Origi, saying: “We will never have a player like him because if he leaves, he will explode wherever he goes. He is a world class striker, he is a legend and will stay a legend forever.
“He doesn’t always make the squad which is ridiculous, but he is there when we need him every time. He was involved in both games.”
You could see the warmth Klopp has towards Origi just minutes after the final whistle, when the German hugged him tightly. Despite his lack of game time over the last two seasons, he won’t be easy to replace once he does leave in two months’ time.
Origi, for the last few years of his Liverpool career, seemed content with whatever amount of minutes he was given by Klopp. And when he did make it on to the pitch, he almost always made an impact. That’s going to be hard to replace for two reasons.
Firstly, a player of that quality will cost money. Klopp has always maintained that Origi is the best finisher at the club, and that isn’t easy to replace. Secondly, it’s doubtful that any player who comes into the club will be happy to sit on the bench, or at times not even make it into the squad, and still be happy as much as Origi was. But the manager has now been reminded that Liverpool must at least attempt to find a replacement.
A solution may be to attempt to offload Takumi Minamino this summer, and buy a more traditional number nine, a player similar to Origi, ahead of next season. This again will be challenging, as the player arriving knows he won’t get a lot of game time, but needs to be decisive when he does play. Even combining the minutes of the Japan and Belgium internationals, it’s still a bit-part role: a tough sales pitch, particularly for the required calibre of striker.
But no matter who Klopp and Liverpool sign to fill the void, it has become abundantly clear that there needs to be a replacement of some description. To this day, Origi offers something different — there was nobody else on that bench who could have turned the game with such inevitability. One thing is for sure: whoever comes in to fill the void won’t be as loved as Origi, perhaps the club’s most iconic of cult heroes.