To see Divock Origi leading Liverpool’s forward line close up, it now feels like a bad joke that less than a year ago he was damned as a dud.
The striker spent last season on loan at Lille, a stipulation of his £10m move from the French club which was set up before he starred in the World Cup with Belgium, but the campaign did not pan out as envisaged.
Origi found himself saddled with the dubious honour of being named in L’Equipe’s worst team of the year after scoring eight goals in 33 games, which included a 20-game scoring drought. Yet this is a level-headed youngster who rolls with the punches.
“It was an awful year,” he said. “It was a special situation but I’m sure it made me a lot stronger when I came here.
I knew exactly what I wanted. I was very hungry to succeed. It wasn’t easy but, as you know, the football world can build you up and you can sometimes go down.
“But when you have a good base you don’t have to worry. When you know you have qualities then you know your hard work will bring you far and that’s my aim.
“At the end of my career it will only make it more special when I can say, ‘The year before this happened’.
“When you work hard and you have your head clear, then everything is possible. I hope in the future it will be a nice story to tell.”
Liverpool will hope the next chapter comes tonight in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final against Dortmund with Origi’s away goal in the 1-1 draw in the Westfalenstadion last week offering a slender advantage.
Dortmund’s visit pushes Jurgen Klopp back into the spotlight, though he is seldom far from Origi’s thoughts. He is minded that current scoring sensation Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang believes he owes his former manager a debt of gratitude and before him Robert Lewandowski’s rise to prominence started in the Ruhr.
Klopp had followed Origi while at Dortmund, but he has no magic wand. He will offer advice and imbue confidence, but it is down to the player to prevail.
The watershed moment for Origi began with a meeting with Klopp the night before a Capital One Cup tie against Southampton on December 2. A few games earlier he had been excluded from the match-day squad, but the Liverpool manager emerged from the heart-to-heart convinced he would go with the 20-year-old in his line-up.
Origi went out and plundered a hat-trick and now finds himself vying with Daniel Sturridge to spearhead the frontline in the club’s biggest game of the season.
“To play a game like this is the reason I came,” said Origi, who has worked on bulking up physically since arriving in England. “I have come to play in the big games. I was very happy to get game time and I just wanted to do my best.
At the time, I wasn’t very aware [of Dortmund’s interest]. But when Liverpool came, my heart just said Liverpool. I came to visit here and straight away, I felt part of it. Even the video analysts knew exactly how I played.
“It is always nice that people believe in you but you have to prove it on the pitch. When someone shows confidence in you, you want to reward it back.
“I am just glad everything went okay. The manager had a very hard choice to make but what I have learned is that we are in a group with a lot of talent.
“Beforehand, we had a tactics talk as a team and he just said, ‘Play your game’. Afterwards he just said, ‘Well done!’ He knows I have a long way to go. I know that too.
“My qualities are more when I move around and use us my speed. You have to learn how to use this. I have seen big improvements.”
Rather than seeing Sturridge as a rival, he is as inclined to view him as a role model.
“I try to see how Daniel moves,” added Origi. “He moves very smart, he comes between the lines and he finishes very well.
“He is creative so he has a lot of qualities and talent and he made steps and became a big player.
“So that’s my aim, to make the same progress like him.”
Should he do so, then the story will, in many ways, be complete.