The Divock Origi story starts like that of any other young hopeful striker at any club across Europe. You hear the stories: the remarks about how good he is and then he’s compared to the last great prodigy that came through the ranks. You are not sure what to believe, and then you get your first glimpse. Instantly, it was obvious that Origi was not just another “hopeful”. Tall, lean, legs as far as you can see, but he’s quick and nimble with the balance of a winger. This kid is something special, and now the World has a chance to see what Lille have been nurturing on the quiet for the last 18 months.
After scoring on his debut against Troyes, Origi was no longer a secret among the Lille fans who took an interest in the youth sides; this kid’s name was known all around the city, and the hopes for the following season began to grow through the summer.
No one quite knew exactly what position he occupied–he had played on the right of the attack, but was not quite a centre-forward, not quite a winger: he was simply a force of nature.
Reports from the Lille II games in CFA and the Under-19 matches had done nothing to quell the excitement. Far too good for the youth sides, wasted in the stramash of France’s fourth division, it was time for him to become a member of the first-team. Rudi Garcia knew it, and you can be sure when Rene Girard was brought to the Domain de Luchin training centre, he was told the same.
With Nolan Roux suspended at the start of this season for a red card during pre-season, Origi was given the nod to lead the line alongside Salomon Kalou for the season opener against Lorient. After just 14 minutes Origi opened his account. Marvin Martin’s pass was deflected into the path of the young Belgian, he timed his run perfectly, opened up his body and curled a side-footed shot beyond Fabian Audard.
Girard did his best to protect the young prodigy, but when you are being labelled the successor to Eden Hazard’s throne, proclaimed the next Prince of Lille, it is difficult to curb the enthusiasm.
In February, Lille suffered from a post New Year’s headache, and the form of 2013 was proving difficult to find. Girard tried to link Kalou, Roux and Origi together as a trio, and it was the young Belgian who shone the brightest. This is when he showed off his shooting ability, with two blistering strikes against Sochaux and Ajaccio that helped Lille to four important points in a tough period.
With his size and skills, you instantly see the pace and the agility, but when you watch him train you are witness to his superb striking ability. When he hits the ball it stays hit. The accuracy and timing will come, but right now he has a firecracker in his boots. Not just with the right either: he showed this season that he is very capable of troubling a ‘keeper with both feet.
It was a surprise to just about everyone in Lille when Origi got the call from Marc Wilmots. The 19-year-old from Ostend had been a huge hit with the under-19 side, scoring 10 goals in 19 games, but he had only played once for the under-21s. This is a move completely out of left-field from the former Schalke midfielder, but it is one that may just come off.
After the injury to Christian Benteke, Belgium needed to pick someone to fill that position in the squad, and although there are no other like-for-like replacements, Origi will give Belgium another dimension if he is given any game time.
He can play as a centre-forward, making runs off the last defender. What he does do very well is stretch a defence. He will run the channels, and then use his size and pace to glide past defenders, before facing them up and tricking his way into danger areas.
On the pitch he has all the raw elements to become a world-class player. Currently, there are no obvious weaknesses, but there is much he can do to improve. His decision-making needs to vastly improve as he plays on instinct, and right now he is still learning how to play at the top level. That will come.
Belgium aren’t exactly lacking on young exciting talent, but in Origi they have a very special, very rough diamond. Wilmots has already shown his faith in the young forward as Origi has played a part in all three of the recent friendlies and was even given a starting role in the 1-0 win over Tunisia.
His selection may have been a surprise, but Origi is already proving on the pitch that he is going to Brazil on merit rather than just to gain experience. In four years’ time, if Belgium’s success continues, you can believe Origi will be at the forefront of their attack.