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Opinion: Rodgers is wrong again - 'world class' Origi is not Liverpool's saviour

The young Belgian has been been tipped for greatness by the under-fire boss but he is nowhere near ready to star.

Origi is spending this season on loan with French club Lille.
Origi is spending this season on loan with French club Lille.

WHEN LIVERPOOL LINED up against Stoke City at Anfield on Saturday, they had more than €110 million worth of summer signings sitting on the bench.

This helps explain why manager Brendan Rodgers is under so much pressure right now. The failure of the likes of Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic and the currently injured Mario Balotelli to replace Liverpool’s superstar of last season, Luis Suarez, has left Rodgers fighting for his future.

Another addition this summer was Lille striker Divock Origi — with €12 million reserved for a player who has remained on-loan in France for the 2014-15 season.

Rodgers has responded to criticism of his transfer work by promising that Liverpool will soon have a world-class striker on their books in Origi.

“For me, he can be one of the most exciting talents in world football. I genuinely believe that,” the Northern Irishman stressed in October.

“I’ve seen enough of him over the course of the last couple of seasons to think this is a kid who, coming into the right environment, can genuinely be world class. He can light up world football, for sure.”

Rodgers is such a big fan of Origi that, despite Lille’s resistance, Liverpool have spoken to both the player and his agent-father Mike Okoth about the possibility of severing his 12-month loan deal so he can play in the Premier League from January.

Such a move would be a big mistake and would only hasten concerns over Liverpool’s transfer policy. The youngster’s performances with Lille this term have shown that he is not ready for a major club.

At only 19, Origi has been handed too much responsibility in his current side’s attack. Charged with replacing Salomon Kalou, scorer of 16 goals last term, the Belgium international has found the net only three times (one of which was a penalty) in 12 Ligue 1 outings.

Indeed, his scoring rate has actually dropped since last term, and that’s even allowing for his extra responsibilities from the penalty spot.

Granted, there have been glimpses of brilliance – in particular a moment of skill in the Europa League against Everton that went viral in Liverpool – but these have been altogether too fleeting. There is growing scepticism in Lille as to whether Origi will be able to grow into the €12m player Liverpool signed.

Rodgers is correct to point out that the forward, whose father was an international with Kenya as recently as a decade ago, has the attributes to become an exciting player, yet these remain very raw.

The striker’s blistering pace is well documented, while his height and build would appear to suit a league in which power is king. But in front of goal he is indecisive and at times his decision-making is poor – a flaw that would surely only become more evident in the lightning-quick environment of the Premier League.

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In the games he has been deployed out on the wing, in both a 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 formation, Origi has struggled badly. He has rarely been able to beat his man in one-on-one situations and he simply doesn’t look cut out for a wide role. This suggests that Rodgers would only be able to utilise him at Liverpool in the centre of his attack.

In contrast, in France’s north-west corner, there is a young winger shining brightly in Rennes’ Paul-Georges Ntep.

Ntep, who at 22 is three years Origi’s senior, looks a far bigger prospect than Origi right now. Last Sunday he displayed his talents by brilliantly setting up both goals as Rennes defeated Monaco 2-0.

“We said before the match that we mustn’t allow Ntep to find himself one-on-one and we allowed him to do it,” coach Leonardo Jardim lamented, having conceded that the winger had “won the match all on his own”.

If Liverpool fans are hoping that in Origi they have a player who can similarly decide matches then, for the time being at least, they are to be disappointed. Indeed, having signed the Belgian at twice the price Rennes paid for Ntep – a player with similar attributes – they might even feel they went after the wrong youngster.

It would be unfair to write off Origi, however.

His performances with the national team have generally been excellent – and he helped take Belgium to the quarter-finals at the 2014 World Cup. This at least suggests that he remains a capable talent when not weighed down by the burden of being the chief attacking threat.

Additionally, his maturity has been admirable. Few players of his age could have stood up to the rigours of World Cup football so capably, with his vital goal against Russia a perfect example of what he can offer.

Equally, though, it is unfair to place too much expectation on a forward who is still developing and has many areas of his game that he needs to improve. Rodgers has portrayed Origi as a potential saviour at Anfield, but for the moment he is nothing more than a promising player.

By Robin Bairner, Goal.com

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