I wrote in May that Jota (23) was more important to retain than Cameron Carter-Vickers on a permanent contract. At that point, the profile of both players was high after a successful term in Glasgow, we would not have been the only potential destination. It is a huge credit to chief exec Michael Nicolson and the club that they have delivered both.
Cameron was our best defender, a potential Celtic captain, but still, I wanted Jota more. Opponents fear him. He can take a ball when marked tightly and the defender will not lunge in to attempt a steal, knowing Jota has the ability to move ball and body before they have formulated a thought.
If an opposition team leave him one-on-one, they better not lose possession. He is Celtic’s most effective out-ball; left with only one defender to beat, he can turn defence into an opportunity to score faster than Usain Bolt could track back.
When Aiden McGeady signed for Hibs this week, my thoughts went back to so many great memories. Prominent among them, was watching him as an 18-year-old, bring his instant control to a 2004 Celtic-Milan Champions League game. No one else in the Celtic team had that ball control.
Jota has the same effortless control.
So what about the Magic Window, where Celtic have seen enough of the player to make their move, before wealthier clubs get involved?
Incredibly, Jota had only played an entire 90 minutes of a game only twice before joining Celtic, both cup games for Benfica against lower league opposition. The season before arriving in Glasgow was mostly spent on the bench, watching his Real Valladolid side fail to ward off relegation. He made 8 starts there and was hooked each time, adding 10 appearances from the bench.
Across his career, before joining Celtic on loan last year, he made 9 starts and 29 sub appearances in senior football. Magic window? More a magic letterbox. He had hardly put studs on grass.
Valladolid was clearly a wrong move. As we have discussed previously about Patrick Roberts, he is a creative talent and needs to be with a team that spends lots of time attacking, sides fighting relegation would be unable to get the ball to him enough to see the benefit of giving him a shirt. It was the classic square peg/round hole problem – one we should be on the lookout for again.
To know the value of the player, Celtic would have to uncover knowledge only visible at Portuguese and Spanish reserve level games. The resources required to cover this much ground is unfathomable through traditional means. You are looking at the result of very effective analytics.