Last year didn’t go quite as planned for Divock Origi. After finishing the 2015/16 season strongly — including memorable goalscoring heroics in both legs of the exhilarating but eventually unfruitful Borussia Dortmund tie — he was expected, as prospects who have impressed usually are, to take the next step and claim starting minutes for the Reds. Instead, he rightly struggled to break into the frontline manned by Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mané, and when the Senegalese striker was injured or away at the AfCoN, was expected to fulfill Firmino’s duties in the central striker role, while the Brazilian was shifted to a less effective position on the right.
The end result was a striker who tried to do too much when given the chance, and who suffered from playing a familiar position but with unfamiliar tasks, as the team as a whole struggled to adapt to their main attacking hub being isolated on the wing. An unimpressive pre-season, further accentuated by the excellent displays of new-boy Dominic Solanke, saw the Belgian striker drop down the depth charts, and as transfer deadline day rolled around, it appeared certain that a move away was on the cards.
The 22-year old ended up at Wolfsburg — in a one-year loan deal, fortified by a £6m loan fee — where a starting role would be all but guaranteed, and thus, with an opportunity to prove himself over significant minutes in a top league.
Much like long stretches of Origi’s career, it has been hit or miss thus far. Two goals — a deep striker’s run and a towering header — in six appearances for a side that has struggled mightily to produce quality attacking opportunities isn’t bad, but it’s not the kind of numbers the former Lille attacker needs to battle his way back into Jürgen Klopp’s first team plans. The persistent issue of producing enough shots remains, and will have to be solved if a successful return to Anfield is to be likely.
Origi himself is not concerned about the latter, however.
“I have to concentrate on myself," Wolfsburg’s number 14 told Kicker. "The future will show what happens. You never know in football. [Klopp] is focused on Liverpool, and I am focused on my task here."
While this reads quite grimly — the implication that he has had no contact with the Liverpool manager since his departure, in particular — Origi’s demeanour in interviews has never been a particularly upbeat. And, of course, Wolfsburg fans would prefer that their player focused on performing for their team, rather than yearn for a return to his parent club, something Origi is undoubtedly aware of.
Whether this loan deal ends in as much of an all-round success as it began remains to be seen, but for now, one shouldn’t put too much stock in the idea that Origi has given up on ever returning to Liverpool, but rather consider his focus on performing for his current club a mark of professionalism. If he can prove an ability to consistently deliver the goods, Reds fans will undoubtedly welcome him back with open arms.