Diogo Jota has been talking about how his move to Wolverhampton Wanderers felt like a gamble at the time - but how it was the right decision for his career in the end.
Speaking in the new issue of FourFourTwo, the Portuguese star talked about what it's like to look forward to Euro 2020 after a rapid rise over the last few years. Jota was at Atletico Madrid for two years - where he never made a La Liga appearance - but after helping Wolves to the Premier League and quarter-finals of the Europa League, he moved to Liverpool for a reported £45 million. His spell in the West Midlands paid off handsomely.
“A short while ago, I saw a Transfermarkt study that had the Championship as the sixth-most valuable league in Europe,” says Jota. “The Portuguese league was listed fifth, so from that perspective you may say that moving to Wolves was a step back at that moment, but I found the Championship to be very competitive.
“But it was about the project, too – in my opinion, Wolves have got the right people running the club. Sometimes you need to take a step back to take two steps forward. In the end, things went well and it proved to be the right decision, even if it sounded a bit risky back then.
“I had an uncle who asked me why I was doing it, but he agrees with me now! I must admit that even I wasn’t totally sold on the idea when I initially heard about it from my agent, Jorge Mendes. “He eventually convinced me, and now he says, ‘See how I was right all along?!’”
Diogo Jota has looked excellent for Liverpool when he's played this season but has had his campaign hampered by a knee injury in early December, which halted Jota’s stunning start on Merseyside. The No.20 missed 18 games, the spell coinciding with Liverpool’s torrid run of form – they only won seven games during his absence.
“I was out for almost three months – it was the longest I’ve been injured in my professional career, and possibly at the worst time because things were going well for me,” he laments. “I just wanted to keep doing what I was doing, but I couldn’t help the team. Then the results we were getting weren’t the best, which only increased my frustration. When I came back, I focused on what I could do to improve the situation.”
As a child, one of Jota’s earliest recollections was watching Portugal’s run to the Euro 2004 Final, where five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo and his more experienced Selecao colleagues were defeated by Greece on home soil.
“That was my first footballing memory,” he says. “I remember watching the quarter-final against England – I was sat in the living room with my dad and my brother, and we were all so happy when we won. I couldn’t believe how Ricardo managed to stop a penalty with no gloves on. That was such a remarkable moment for me.”
Now, Jota hopes that the current crop can go one further than that particular golden generation. Being drawn in a group with Germany and world champions France doesn’t exactly make things any easy, though.
“I always stress that Hungary are there, too,” says Jota. “Remember, when we won Euro 2016, we failed to beat them during the group stage [in a 3-3 draw]. We’ve been handed a very difficult draw, but the Euros were never meant to be easy. Regardless of that, we know the quality we have, so if we’re able to build a good team in the true sense of the word, I believe we’re capable of getting through to the knockout stages.”
Read the full interview with Diogo Jota in the new issue of FourFourTwo, out now
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