“Maybe if I wasn’t a footballer I’d be a psychologist,” said Divock Origi in a May 2017 interview with The Guardian’s Andy Hunter. He described reading three books a month — often on that very topic — and, pertinently, how he: “started to study psychology but had to stop when I got into the first team.”
Speaking four languages — Swahili, English, Flemish and French — was another of his academic attributes. The additional understanding of one’s brain that can come from an interest in such subjects may well, you’d have thought, make it that bit easier to be at ease.
“Away from the pitch, he’s just so incredibly relaxed,” is indeed one observation from James Milner within an extract from his book, Ask a Footballer, recently provided on Twitter by co-writer Oliver Kay.
He also spoke of how the 24-year-old displayed his commitment and determination through forcing his way back into the Liverpool setup after returning from his 2017/18 loan at a struggling Wolfsburg.
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It feels — again, from the admittedly ignorant outside — like Origi possesses an impressive balance. He can clearly possess high levels of focus but, when it comes to emotions, he rarely appears to allow himself too high or too low.
Look at those four crucial goals at the back end of last season, for instance. The Newcastle winner. The Barça brace. The Champions League Final clincher. All, particularly the latter, required a hefty degree of composure to put away.
But, perhaps more intriguingly, all were followed by celebrations displaying very little self-interest. There was happiness, there was determination and there was gratitude to a provider, but there was very little crazed fist-pumping, knee-sliding or the rest.
You could say the same for the more recent derby double against Everton at Anfield. Jubilation for the fans, but a now-familiar brand of quiet, understated satisfaction for Divock.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. But such significant moments can perhaps offer an insight into Origi’s approach.
With a wide ranging understanding of psychology and of language, contextualising football — and knowing how best to utilise those skills within it — is perhaps that little bit easier for Liverpool’s No.27.
In that 2017 interview, he also refers to his “resource”, nicely summarised by Hunter as a “memory bank of highs and lows that is extensive for a 22-year-old and drawn upon regularly”. Needless to say, it’s still now extensive for a 24-year-old.
Meaningful bookmarks — like his two goals in the Borussia Dortmund Europa League quarter-final of 2016, swiftly followed by the ankle ligament injury, courtesy of Ramiro Funes Mori, that denied him a prominent role in that season’s finale — were already in place. A high and a low that would only aid his sense of perspective going forward.
That understanding — and experience — of the rollercoaster that is life, and is football, must surely be a notable help. He can see a big game, the risks and the rewards that inevitably come with it, and set about doing what needs to be done without being overawed.
Focus without overthinking.
He understands the value of such occasions just fine, you sense. But only after accessing the greater value of viewing its overall context.
He understands. But he’s unconsumed.
One interview response of his always sticks in the mind. Speaking to Origi immediately after Liverpool overcame Tottenham in the Champions League Final, BT Sport’s Des Kelly said: “You did it again!”
“We did it,” responded the ex-Lille man, with a warm smile. A fascinating individual he may be, but here was a clear demonstration of his impressive awareness of the collective effort — and mentality — required to make things happen in this sport.
Best of all, this is article simply represents one outlook on another outlook. There may be very different elements behind Origi’s successes.
Judging just how accurate a set of observations these may or may not have been is pretty tricky.
Divock, hopefully, will just be happy to have made us think.