What a difference a year makes. On 5 May 2018 Divock Origi stood, shoulders slumped, at the Red Bull Arena having struggled to make an impact for Wolfsburg as they were thrashed 4-1 by Leipzig.
It was another chastening afternoon at the club that had taken him on loan from Liverpool.
A Bundesliga relegation play-off lay in wait after a season in which he had scored just six league goals in 34 appearances and suffered the public humiliation of being substituted in the first half against Hoffenheim two months earlier.
He was then torn apart in the German press for admitting he knew nothing about Holstein Kiel, the team Wolfsburg would face in the two-legged decider.
Even an eternal optimist would have laughed off suggestions that the young Belgian could recover from such a soul-destroying experience to kickstart and finish Liverpool’s – and perhaps European club football’s – greatest ever comeback at Anfield against Barcelona 367 days later to book a place in the Champions League final.
But Origi is not your average footballer. In an interview with the Guardian he once said he would be a psychologist if he wasn’t a striker because he loves listening to TED talks, likes to know the personalities of his teammates and “studied psychology but had to stop when I got into the first team”.
So, as the dust settled on the remarkable 4-0 win and Jürgen Klopp spoke glowingly of his players being “fucking mentality giants”, Origi must have been at the forefront of the manager’s thoughts.
In the quarter-final second leg at Porto Klopp berated the forward for 45 minutes for doing pretty much everything wrong before hooking him at half-time for Roberto Firmino, a player Liverpool were supposed to be resting.
He could have disappeared into his shell for the rest of the season after experiencing embarrassment similar to that which he was subject to on that horrible afternoon at Hoffenheim.
Instead, he knuckled down and resolved to play his part at Liverpool, emerging from the shadows to make an impact with minimal game time.
He has played only 577 minutes of football this season yet delivered in some of the biggest moments; in the sixth minute of injury time against Everton; the 87th minute at Newcastle; the seventh and 79th against Barcelona.
If there were football rankings for players with the greatest “sense of occasion” he would be up there at the top. He’s scored six goals in what amounts to six and a-half games of playing time. Not bad for a bit-part player.
Liverpool’s history is studded with a fine collection of cameo players who have been unlikely heroes when thrown centre stage: Neil Mellor, Florent Sinama Pongolle, David Fairclough and Vladimir Smicer, to name but a few, but perhaps none have been loaded with greater responsibility. Klopp trusted Origi to deliver in the absence of two players who have scored 44 goals between them for Liverpool this season – and in a game of such magnitude.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is rightly being lauded for his quick-thinking as he caught Barcelona’s defence napping with the corner that set up the winner and turned Anfield into a giant bouncy castle. But it takes two to tango.
There were red shirted players with their backs turned to the corner spot as well as those in Barça yellow.
Origi was not among them. The player who likes to know how his teammates’ minds work was hyper alert and knew what the right-back was up to.
And then what about the finish? Some goals are scored instinctively under pressure from defenders. To miss those chances is excusable. But as the ball was fizzed into him Origi had time to think.
He could see it coming. He knew he could be hero or villain. His legs could have turned to jelly. It was Madrid or (quite possibly) bust. But he kept his cool, reacted to the situation, and swept the ball home to become a cool conqueror of Barcelona.
“On the fourth goal, I knew that everyone was tired. These are things that have been done all year round in training,” he said after the match. “It is the mentality that made the difference.” None more so than his own.