Every now and then, football teams make signings that make you sit up and take notice. Wolves have started doing it every transfer window.
It all started 18 months ago. In came Ivan Cavaleiro, fresh from the glitz and glamour of Monaco. As if that wasn’t enough, the real revelation from that transfer window, Helder Costa, was picked up permanently in January. Wolves then pulled out all the stops when they unveiled Ruben Neves – and a beautiful new away kit – last summer. And as if they will stop at nothing to prevent plateauing, today sees the announcement of Diogo Jota joining the club permanently in the summer.
Now before everyone, runs away with their minds to consider what could happen next in this month’s activity, it does seem as if the official transfer will happen in the summer. This means the loan rules still apply and a new loan signing may hinge on if the club are willing to eschew one of the loan contingent to feature an extra player – Benik Afobe, I’m talking about you. But most of all – why on earth are we worried about Afobe when we’ve just announced the permanent signing of the best forward I’ve ever seen call Molineux home?
Diogo Jota was heralded as a coup when he first arrived, but Ruben Neves clearly came with the greater reputation. You wouldn’t be a Wolves fan if you wasn’t sceptical but this was a man who had Champions League goals to his name let alone appearances. Nobody could have foreseen the impact that he has had on a forward line that lacked pretty much everything last season.
Jota’s incredible marriage of superb technical ability on either foot, a wonderful change of direction and a desire to impact every single game he plays in – regardless of the treatment he receives – has led to him taking the Championship by storm. His centre of gravity sits lower than Blues in the league table and his resilience in the face of some truly shocking treatment from defenders and officials alike makes you wonder if he has some kind of masochistic enjoyment from the tackle from behind. I still get the impression we haven’t seen the absolute best of the man yet.
There’s the obvious point that this is still a fledgling career at 21 years old, but you also feel the vast plains of space in front of and behind Premier League defences may work in his favour. He is the most devastating counter-attacker outside of the top 7/8 teams in the country aside from perhaps Wilfried Zaha. The trouble is, he doesn’t get afforded that kind of space any more at Championship level, instead being treated like an opposition side’s punchbag. He’s certainly of the heavier variety of punchbag though and we’re yet to see him wilt in the face of this kind of skullduggery, a characteristic which can only bode him well in his future endeavours.
To put into perspective the magnitude of his talents, a lot of the things that stick in the memory when you think of Jota’s performances didn’t even result in goals. There were two efforts in the home draw with Bristol City, one with his left foot and one with the right, that led to hand on the head, Bobby Robson-style reactions. There was the astonishing length-of-the-pitch gallop down Nottingham Forest-s left wing at the City Ground, 3 defenders virtually hanging off him, exasperated by their failed attempts to win the ball. There was the way he used John Terry as a de-facto roundabout in the lead up to Bonatini’s goal and the forever endearing image of James Chester and Terry seemingly left mindlessly eating grass after he broke the deadlock in that game.
My favourite Jota moment remains when Leeds United surrounded him with three likely hatchet-men, no doubt licking their lips at the prospect of devouring the misleadingly slight Jota. The picture below shows the prospect he was facing.
What happened next blew my mind. I’m still convinced he touched the ball three times within a split-second and before you knew it the ball was at Bonatini’s feet and Wolves were on their way to scoring the second goal. Pure magic.
Now the spectre of Jorge Mendes may loom at some point in the future, but we are in the loveliest of positions right now. Here we stand, on the verge of Premier League football, with Champions League players running through the team and embedded into Nuno’s Way. I for one, wouldn’t want anyone other than Diogo Jota spearheading our charge up the ladder.
As our reputation rises I’m sure his will too. And on that note I;m sure he’ll appreciate me saying this: it’s Diogo. Not Diego.