Wolverhampton. A city in the heart of England that bares almost no resemblance to the sun-kissed lands of Portugal.
However, of late, this city has become a haven for some of Portugal’s finest up and coming talents, the reason being Jorge Mendes, unsurprisingly. One particularly sparkling addition to the ever-growing tribe of Portuguese talents to make their way to the Black Country is Atletico Madrid loanee, Diogo Jota.
Jota was named the PFA Championship Player of the Month for September last week. PortuGOAL takes a look at the immediate impact the 20-year-old has made in England’s second tier.
Upon his arrival in the Midlands, many of the Wolves faithful hadn’t heard of the Portuguese starlet. However, in his 10 appearances for the Championship side, he has alleviated any sense of doubt regarding his talents. Jota has scored six times and has provided one assist, in addition to accumulating a Whoscored average rating of 7.45, illustrating the impressive, yet largely unsurprising influence he’s had on the Championship highfliers.
Style of play
Agile both on and off the ball, whilst boasting exemplary technique with the ball at his feet, the Atletico loanee is the epitome of the modern day second striker. Despite also being able to play as the most advanced of three centre-midfielders, or even as a narrow winger, Jota is better suited to a role where he has licence to roam in search of the ball.
Having said that, taking into account the prowess Jota possesses in each of the technical aspects of the game, his predatory instinct in and around the 18-yard-box is not to be overlooked. Of the six goals he’s netted for Wolves this season, five have been from inside the 18-yard-box. The other was a truly wondrous strike from all of 25 yards out which nestled into the bottom left corner after he picked up the ball on the halfway line (see below).
In addition to his numerous strong points listed above, Jota is also competent with both feet, an important asset for an attacking player. It adds an aspect of unpredictability to his game – something that sets him apart from a number of his compatriots who thrive in the attacking third.
The world’s elite forwards who possess a similar skillset are predominantly one-sided, as illustrated by Paulo Dybala, Antoine Griezmann and so forth. All are pint-sized in stature, agile and possess a technical ability most could only dream of acquiring. Indeed, Jota has a long way to go before reaching the heights of the aforementioned elite. Yet, despite playing in the second tier in England, he is showing signs that he does possess a well-rounded, unique arsenal of skills similar to those of many of the world’s finest players in his position.
The Championship: A good move?
Despite the exciting number of positives to take from his performances thus far in the 2017-18 campaign, there is room for improvement. The English leagues are world-renowned for their physicality, something foreign players -- in particular Portuguese players -- usually find difficult to adapt to.
Having said that, Jota appears to be largely unfazed by the manner in which the not-so-beautiful game is played in English football’s second division. This fearless, tenacious and intrepid approach will allow Jota to add an aspect to his game that many of Portugal’s technical players do not possess. Jota will certainly benefit from the physical manner in which the game is played in the Championship.
However, before this season Jota had experienced Champions League football and his performances thus far suggest he can play at a level that comfortably surpasses the quality of the Championship. The negative aspect of this is that his technical prowess may not develop in an ideal manner, and may even be stifled somewhat. This possible drawback in his career choice has to be set against the gains in his game deriving from the fact Jota will be playing football week-in-week-out in, as mentioned above, a physically demanding league.
There is no question that for Jota to enhance his technical abilities, he will at some point need to ply his trade in a team that will augment the sublime skillset he possesses. For the time being, a year in a league that will allow him to play on a consistent basis should benefit the youngster on all fronts.
Was it a good move? In my opinion, yes. As seen with a number of Portugal’s youngsters who have moved abroad, regular playing time has proven hard to come by. Jota is one of the few playing on a weekly basis, and despite the lesser quality of opponents and quality of football, regular playing time is the key to development.
What does the future hold?
Boasting the likes of Griezmann, Carrasco and Gameiro, Jota’s parent club have a host of world-class talents who play in his position, which will make it unfathomably difficult for the youngster to break into the team if and when he returns to the Spanish capital, even if his exemplary start to the season persists until the end of the campaign.
The best “next step” may be to stay in England. Wolves look set for a strong push to go up to the Eldorado of the Premier League, while if he continues his sublime form, countless EPL clubs will surely be interested in acquiring Jota’s services should the West Midlands club fail to secure promotion.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding his future, there is no doubting that Portugal have another star on their hands. We can only hope that he makes the right decision to ensure his development continues.
By Marino Peixoto