NAIROBI, May 5 – Liverpool FC legend and the club’s all-time leading goal scorer Ian Rush has backed youngster Divock Origi to make his mark at football’s highest level after a string of eye-catching performances since manager Jurgen Klopp joined the side October last year.
Rush, who played for Liverpool from 1980-1987 and 1988-1996, having scored 346 goals in all competitions, told Capital Sport working with Klopp will help Origi build on his potential to become the star and has what it takes to follow his footsteps.
Rush was one of the Liverpool legends invited to the 2016 Standard Chartered Trophy Final in Anfield Stadium where Kenya’s Capital FM football team were crowned champions to become the first African nation to lift the annual title.
Origi, who has Kenyan roots since his father Mike Okoth used to play for Harambee Stars and Kenyan Premier League side Tusker FC, was described by Rush as a top quality striker.
“The manager has great belief in him (Origi) and he has been fantastic in the last five games. That shows why Belgium has quality forwards in the likes of Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku,” Rush, who captained Liverpool from 1993-1996, said.
“The manager likes Origi because he works hard and he never gives up. Technical wise he is very good and that’s the reason he has been Klopp’s regular starter. If he was not injured he would still be included in the starting team,” he added.
Origi is recuperating from a swollen ankle injury he picked in their 4-0 thrashing of Everton following a dreadful tackle from Ramiro Funes Mori.
Former England national team winger John Barnes also threw his weight behind Origi, saying he has a great future at Liverpool and is a big inspiration to upcoming Kenyan footballers.
“Since Klopp came he (Origi) has grown confidence because the manager believe in him so even though he has not started well, you can see he has already picked up and it’s unfortunate he picked an injury since in the last four games he has been sensational and I hope his injury will not keep him out for long,” Barnes, who was named the PFA Player of the Year twice in 1987-88 and 1989-90, stated.
“The confidence that he gains from Klopp and sometimes starting ahead of Daniel Sturridge really shows that Klopp rates him highly,” Barnes added.
Retired Liverpool midfielder Scotsman Gary McAllister said, “Arriving at Liverpool and playing in front of the famous Kop fans, it took a lot of time for him to settle into a new environment but what you are seeing now is someone who is growing in confidence.”
“He has the trust of the manager and for me in the last 10 games he has been very important for Liverpool not only in terms of scoring but being a constant player. I like the playing style of Divock, I enjoy working and training with him since he is a young man who listens and wants to do well. He is one guy who will get better and better,” McAllister, who won the FA Cup with Liverpool in 2000-01, said.
Origi, a Belgian international has notched five goals for Liverpool since joining the team this season after being loaned to French side Lille in the 2014-15 season.
– Kenyan talent –
With Origi coming from a football family in Kenya, Barnes outlined that the breaking through of the Liverpool striker and Southampton FC midfielder Victor Wanyama is a signal indicating Kenya has talent.
However, Barnes noted that for Harambee Stars to improve, the country must strive to have more players playing in European leagues where football has developed.
Kenya dropped one place in the April FIFA rankings to sit 116th but Barnes, who scored108 goals for Liverpool said the presence of Origi and Wanyama in the English Premier League has proved it’s not only West African nations who can produce top class players.
“I have not watched a lot of Kenyan soccer but obviously you can see the emergence of Origi who has Kenyan roots and Wanyama shows it’s a country that has huge potential. The West Africa countries have notoriously been known as the power house of football in Africa but now everybody knows there are good players in Kenya,” Barnes, who was the legend allocated to the Ghana team at Standard Chartered Trophy final, underscored.
“There is exposure in Europe as it has done to Wanyama and other Kenyan players, if more Kenyans could join them you will see the national team improve because you have to get the experience of playing in better leagues but it’s not going to happen overnight.”
“That will remove the perception people have for the East African countries because we know West Africans have had a great history in all of European leagues but with what Wanyama is doing, people will start taking interest in East Africa and Kenya particularly.”
Barnes alongside other legends Rush, McAllister and Philip Andrew Babb who all had a successful time at Liverpool, said Klopp should be given time to restructure the team.
“I have said all season since Klopp came that I will judge Liverpool more critically next year when he has had a pre season to work with the players. He needs a five week window period where he can implement a strategy over a long period so that players can consistently do what he demands otherwise it’s going to be difficult but I’m sure next year it will be fantastic,” Barnes opined.
Babb, a former Liverpool central defender called on Klopp to spend wisely in the transfer window.
“It’s going to be difficult because you got to think how other teams will strengthen. You could argue that a lot of teams underperformed this season so expect them to bolster their squad therefore we have to match them if not better them.
“This is still a fantastic club and we can attract quality players and Klopp is going to be important because we will be coming for him predominantly in the promise of reaching Champions League and European cup finals as well as trying to challenge for the Premier League. We have to spend wisely and reconstruct the squad,” Babb offered.
Liverpool last lifted a silverware in 2012 when they won the League Cup.