Having missed most of the final month of last season with a foot injury and largely been consigned to the bench for Belgium at Euro 2016, Divock Origi could have been forgiven if he’d looked a little rusty when he came on for his first action of pre-season in the second half against AC Milan.
Instead, he looked lively. His movement was stellar, as was his willingness to run the channels as he stretched Milan out of their shape after they spent much of the first half sat compact, frustrating Liverpool’s attempts to build their way through them. His presence made Liverpool a better side. And he scored the winning goal.
“I’m very happy to be back on the pitch,” reflected the 21-year-old striker following Liverpool’s 2-0 victory. “As a team we’re enjoying our first minutes. We were very hungry for this game, and we worked a lot in training. We enjoyed it and we won, so I’m very happy about that.”
After his strong play in the spring of last season, some are even starting to wonder if Origi might be the man to lead the line for Liverpool this year. If Daniel Sturridge can stay fit, though, he’s probably not quite there yet—Sturridge, lest anyone forget, is one of the league’s top three strikers when fit and on form.
But Origi will get his chances, and he’s still young and developing. There’s plenty of time for him to grow, to develop, and to turn into the dominant striker he’s already shown flashes of becoming. And if Sturridge can’t stay fit, it’s comforting to have a player of Origi’s quality there to provide cover.
“I still have to work a lot, and there’s a lot of room for improvement, but I try to learn day to day,” he added. “I can feel the confidence from everyone and can improve and enjoy my game. Year by year I’m improving, and I’m still young. The most important thing is to make steps and last year I had some good moments.
“I want to learn and become more consistent to help the team even more and become an important player in the team. We’ve worked a lot on the tactical things, and you can see that the team has one idea. We have to work on things but we have time and everyone is smiling and has a good attitude.”