Liverpool have only gone and got themselves another one.
If there is such a thing as a £45 million ($57m) bargain, then the Reds look like they’ve found it.
The Diogo Jota bandwagon rolls on
What a signing the Portuguese international looks to be! Some people take time to adjust to a new club, a new manager and new surroundings, but Jota has his feet firmly under the table at Anfield
Six weeks into his Liverpool career, he is already undroppable.
He was certainly too good for Atalanta on Tuesday evening, his superb hat-trick setting Jurgen Klopp’s side on their way to eye-catching away win in the Champions League. In the end it was 5-0 – the biggest ever recorded by an English team away in Italy.
Progression to the knockout stage can now be secured, with two games to spare, when Atalanta visit Anfield later this month. On this evidence, the Italians will be absolutely terrified of what awaits them.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s side – rightly feted for their impressive showings in Serie A over the past three seasons, and quarter-finalists in this competition last term – had no answer to the brilliance of Jota, who dovetailed beautifully with Mo Salah and Sadio Mane throughout.
Preferred to Roberto Firmino, the 23-year-old delivered one of the great European performances. He was by no means alone, mind.
This was Liverpool back to their very best; organised and aggressive, too sharp and too quick for their shell-shocked opponents. They dominated from the first whistle. And when the chances came, they were utterly lethal.
Jota grabbed the headlines, scoring twice in the first-half and once in the second. All three were dispatched with the confidence of a man who looks like he belongs at the very highest level.
“He’s special,” said former Reds striker Michael Owen, watching from the BT Sport studio. “If Liverpool fans were unsure if they had a top-class recruit on their hands, they know now!”
With Salah and Mane also on the scoresheet, Jurgen Klopp could reflect on a perfect evening. But with a trip to Manchester City on the horizon this weekend, the manager now has a big decision to make.
“If I’m Firmino now, I’m slightly worried,” said Peter Crouch, sat alongside Owen, and you can see his point. If the Brazilian is stuttering, with only one goal so far this season, then Jota is sparkling.
Klopp was not in the mood for comparisons afterwards. “The world is sometimes a bad place,” he told his post-match press conference. “That in the moment when somebody is shining we immediately speak about another player who played what feels like 500 games in a row.
“Without Bobby Firmino, we would not be in the Champions League even. For a lot of people in the world, if you ask them ‘what makes Liverpool special?’ they would say ‘the way Bobby Firmino is playing’.
“For us it is important that we have more than 11. Tonight, Diogo played a super, super game but that says nothing about Bobby, and has nothing to do with me causing headaches.”
Nonetheless, surely Jota must start at the Etihad, whether alongside or instead of the No.9? He’s the man in form.
He now has seven goals in his first 10 Liverpool appearances. Only Owen (twice) and Mane have scored hat-tricks away from home in Europe for the club. Not since Robbie Keane, 12 years ago, has a player scored in his first two Champions League starts. Jota, already, is putting himself in the history books on Merseyside.
It’s not just his goals, either. There is something which just looks right about the former Wolves man in this team. He works like a Liverpool player, he presses like a Liverpool player and he moves like a Liverpool player. Intelligent, versatile, energetic.
We should never underestimate Firmino’s importance to the side. He’ll come again, make no mistake, and those seeking to write him off would be wise to reconsider. He is, and will remain, an Anfield legend.
But nights like this simply cannot be ignored.
If this was an audition for City, then Jota got the part.
The stage is his, and he looks completely at home on it.