When Diogo Jota’s transfer from Wolves to Liverpool was confirmed, the immediate response from a lot of Liverpool fans and watchers-on across the league was simply – Diogo Jota?
At the time, he wasn’t necessarily Wolves’ shining light, or at least the player that first came to mind if you were to put a person on the spot to name the best player at the club. Wolves were coming off of a lofty seventh place in the COVID-19 fuelled season that extended the transfer window deeper into autumn, meaning Jota didn’t move to Merseyside until late September.
He had scored seven league goals over the course of the season, second behind Raul Jimenez who had struck 17 times in the league and 27 times in total. Following this pair with four goals were Adama Traore, Matt Doherty who was playing the football of his life and Belgian holding midfielder Leander Dendoncker.
Although Jota had put three pretty decent seasons together, including in Wolves’ Championship promotion run where he scored 17 times, Traore was undoubtedly the big name expending more column inches than his broad biceps. The Spaniard statistically wasn’t as impactful as Jota, but took a lot of the limelight in terms of his playing style and the general disruption and chaos his presence caused to opposition defenders. Many thought he would be a perfect foil to the likes of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane, coming on late in games to add the knockout blow to already bewildered defences.
Alas, Traore is still at Molineux and continues to land in gossip columns on a near-daily basis, but his stock has dropped since that period.
In midfield, Ruben Neves was the name attracting interest from across the league and beyond, while a late career renaissance from Joao Moutinho was earning him links to the likes of Manchester United. Neither perhaps on Liverpool’s radar, nor seemingly was Pedro Neto who had notched a couple of lovely goals in his first season at Wolves following a move from Braga.
In hindsight, Jota might’ve felt aggrieved that he wasn’t a bigger blip on the radar, but that was to Michael Edwards’ joy that Liverpool were able to swoop in in relatively discreet fashion to land the Portuguese attacker for just over £40million.
The return had been almost instantaneous, scoring on his Premier League debut for the club against Arsenal and following that up soon after with a winner against Sheffield United and a hat-trick in the Champions League against Atalanta. He became the first Liverpool player since Robbie Fowler to score seven goals in his first ten appearances, ahead of the likes of Salah, Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres who all shot out of the blocks fairly quickly in their respective Liverpool careers.
The run of form seemed almost unsustainable. An injury in a dead rubber group game against FC Midtjylland curtailed his season by three months, but a return of 13 goals in his debut season wasn’t bad going.
Playing second fiddle to the triumphant trio of Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino meant Jota had to be patient, but you can’t say he wasn’t productive with his limited chances. Four more league goals following his injury, including a brace against Arsenal, meant he went into the summer starting for Portugal at Euro 2020, scoring a goal in the 4-2 loss to Germany.
Jota has been pretty remarkable this season. Unfortunately aided by injuries, Firmino may now be second in the pecking order following the Portuguese’s 14 goals in 27 games thus far. Jota’s finishing prowess has skyrocketed, showing ability to score all types of goals in addition to his penchant for getting on the end of crosses with his relatively diminutive 5’10 frame.
His ability to find the right areas to get on the end of chances shows a wiliness not even neither Salah or Mane may be privy to, who usually have to work with the ball first before burying their chances. Jota is developing into a hellish goalscorer who has plenty to offer in terms of his work rate and endeavour pressing high up the field.
If this was what Michael Edwards had in mind when the club signed off on the transfer, you just have to doff your cap.
Jota’s League Cup semi-final double against Arsenal was another prime example of the 25-year-old’s development, his second goal where he marginally beat the offside break to chest the ball and delicately pass the ball past Aaron Ramsdale showing shades of Luis Suarez’s time at the club.
Unless Edwards’ has some more cards up his sleeve ahead of his end-of-season departure after 10 years at Liverpool, Jota is likely to be the last attacking transfer of his tenure. Mane and Salah were home runs, but to strike lightning again with Diogo Jota – and once again without the blockbuster bluster of a big name signing from a major club, is quite an exemplary parting gift.