On transfer deadline day ahead of last season’s campaign Celtic made the loan signing of Portuguese winger Jota from Benfica on a season-long deal, and crucially included an option to purchase permanently.
Celtic have now triggered that option and at a fee of around £6.5 million he becomes the third-most expensive player in the club’s history after Odsonne Edouard and Christopher Jullien.
In what is a deviation from the norm, Celtic are conducting their transfer business early this summer, and in addition to Jota have signed Cameron Carter-Vickers on a permanent deal from Spurs, back up keeper Benjamin Seigrist on a free, as well as exciting young left-back Alexandro Bernabei from Lanus.
Most fans of the club always thought the deal would happen at some stage for the mercurial winger.
Indeed, since the end of last season, almost every single social media post the club has published has been met with a barrage of ‘Announce Jota’ replies.
On 1 July, the supporters got their wish as the transfer was confirmed, and make no mistake about it, this is a mega deal for the club.
A CHANGE IN TRANSFER POLICY?
Over the past decade or so, Celtic have implemented a transfer policy which centres on buying players with potential before then selling for profit. Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Edouard are key examples of this.
But, this one just feels different.
Jota is 23 years old and has signed a five-year deal with the club which means that he may very well be operating in the Hoops in his prime – not something the fans have enjoyed too much with a player of his quality recently.
Like every player, he had dips in form last season, but his return of 13 goals and 14 assists in 40 appearances in all competitions is fantastic for a wide player.
His overall contributions were excellent as he was regularly the player relied upon to unlock deep-lying defensive units – something which Celtic now face in every single domestic home fixture bar none.
He is a throwback winger of sorts, similar to Aiden McGeady. He is not afraid to pull something from his bag of tricks, and although criticism can be swift when it doesn’t come off, Celtic need this unpredictability in attack due to the aforementioned defensive blocks.
Celtic supporters should certainly give themselves a pat on the back for this deal happening, too.
Yes, Jota will be paid handsomely for his services, but he undoubtedly could have gone elsewhere and to a better league.
But, Celtic have given him a platform to develop into a superstar both in the eyes of support and in the fact that he will now feature on the biggest club stage of all in the UEFA Champions League this campaign.
— SL Benfica (@SLBenfica) July 1, 2022
Kyogo Furuhashi claimed many of the headlines last season as the club’s new hero – the ‘new Henrik Larsson’ of sorts.
However, while he was out, Jota was the man who stepped up, and he is now becoming just as important to this side that Ange Postecoglou is building.
JOTA ON CELTIC
So what has the player himself said about Celtic?
Though this is a phrase that has become a bit redundant in modern football, it does actually seem that Jota ‘gets it’ with Celtic.
It is extremely difficult not to like the young man, and this was evident during his fan media press conference on Friday as he was relaxed, sociable and insightful; traits that are often lacking in interviews with the modern day footballer.
When asked about his connection with the supporters, he said:
“I think that is something only that players who have played at Celtic Park can answer and there might not be enough words to express that feeling.
“I can say many words about that, but it will never be worth it because only the people who can live it inside can say to you ‘yeah, this is different’.
“It’s incredible, its something special, looking around the pitch and playing and everything. Defending these colours, it’s truly tremendous.”
One of his most interesting answers came via a question about team-mate Kyogo. At times the tandem was fabulous to watch last season, but there is a feeling there is still a lot more to come from the partnership moving forward.
“Kyogo is an amazing player. Like, I have to tell you, some of his movements are world class. I’m not sure there are many players in the world who can do his movements and I’ve seen a lot of strikers, quality strikers.
“Not just Kyogo, we have a lot of quality in every sector.”
With his permanent signing Jota has now added his own name to that quality that Ange Postecoglou can call upon as we look to defend our league title and make an assault on the UEFA Champions league.
When asked on how he things we may fare against Europe’s elite the charismatic youngster was fearless in his reply.
“One thing we are sure of, we are going to keep our ideas. We are not going to a different team from last season just because this is Champions League. That doesn’t make sense for us.
“We are just going to practice our football and do it the best way we can.
“Let’s fight against them all!”
Maybe Glasgow is rubbing off on the Lisbon born youngster more than he realised.