Spain. Uruguay. Argentina. Brazil. Even Egypt. Some of Liverpool’s best imports in recent years started out in remote corners of the world before they starred on Merseyside.
South America has given us the likes of Javier Mascherano, Roberto Firmino, Lucas Leiva and Luis Suárez, to name but a few. Meanwhile, Fernando Torres, Pepe Reina, Xabi Alonso and Luis García hailed from the land of tapas and Cruzcampo.
But some countries are yet to give the Reds a bona-fide star, such as Italy. Some may argue the point that Thiago was born there, but he plays internationally for Spain and also has Brazilian heritage, so who the knows how to categorise him. Our diminutive midfielder aside, Andrea Dossena and Fabio Borini are probably the best of a shockingly bad bunch.
Another one is Portugal. Raul Meireles was a decent player who unfortunately joined the club at a time of crisis, while Rafa Camacho was lauded as a future star before he was unceremoniously shipped off to Sporting CP last summer.
Other than that, we have academy semi-graduate João Teixeira (he’s still only 27!) and non-graduate Paulo Alves (who?). You can throw in Mozambique-born Abel Xavier if you really want to, but it’s still not exactly an impressive list considering some of the talent Portugal has churned out over the years.
But finally, it looks like a genuine gem from Cristiano-land – let’s be honest, it’s a surprise they haven’t renamed it that already – might have arrived on Crosby shores.
Of course, I’m referring to Diogo Jota – the man who has not only provided some much-needed depth in the attacking areas, but who has gone one step further and showed his quality is good enough to challenge the regular front three for a starting spot.
His eye for goal is already on show, with some key strikes under his belt already. His maiden goal was a late finish off the bench to seal victory over Arsenal, before he got the winner in a 2-1 victory over Sheffield United.
Jota was also on the end of a slick passing move to open the scoring against Midtjylland and mark Liverpool’s 10,000th goal in all competitions. That milestone means little more than a mention in the record books – more important was the breakthrough in what had proven to be a tricky game up to that point.
With others misfiring around him, the Portuguese’s good form couldn’t have come at a more crucial time. Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah are having no trouble finding the net, but Roberto Firmino’s issues in front of goal are well documented, while neither Takumi Minamino nor Divock Origi look like they have the confidence to find the back of the net at the moment.
That’s what makes Jota’s arrival – and impact – so vital to Liverpool’s chances of silverware this season. With Virgil van Dijk set to sit on the sidelines for much of the rest of the campaign, the Reds may well be required to out-score their opponents more often without their organiser-in-chief marshalling the back line.Embed from Getty Images
Every man who makes a habit of finding the back of the net will be a golden asset for the Reds, especially during a hectic campaign where more rotation than usual may well be necessary. Historically the Reds have struggled for quality depth in attacking areas, and that is what Jota provides in abundance.
The reported £45m fee is looking more and more like a bargain, and there is genuine excitement about the potential progress he could make considering Jürgen Klopp’s track record of taking players considered ‘average’ and turning them into world-class superstars.
Mané and Salah are obvious examples of this – and maybe within a year or two we might be able to speak Diogo Jota’s name in the same breath.
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