A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece wondering if Ange wasn’t preparing us, and this team, for life after Jota. I wrote it because the player was dropped for a couple of games whilst the manager played Maeda wide left. The Japanese has made that position his own, and since he has the question of Jota has taken on a brand new significance.
Way back, before January, the manager was always very cagey when he was asked the Jota question. At the time, he was the player most of the fans and the media were talking about. Ange never once said that we were hopeful of keeping him.
Instead he talked of how the deal had to suit all parties and over and over he reminded folks of what his mantra had been since the hour he walked through the door; “I only want people who want to be here.” Does he know more than he’s letting on?
Has he detected reluctance from Jota to commit to the cause?
The signing of Maeda in January was always coming. Ange loved the guy and knew exactly what he could do, and the player has shown us that. But we all expected him to play through the middle, where he had distinguished himself in Japan.
But right from the start, it was clear that Ange had a different plan for him. So I was moved to wonder in that piece if the manager was already thinking past this season. I thought – and I still think – that Jota might be convinced to stay.
Yet now, though, I wonder if the club believes he’d be worth the outlay. It has been a while since we saw this guy grab a game by the throat. It has, in fact, been too long. He started like lightning in a bottle. You were genuinely mesmerised every time he was in the team. But now he’s just another squad player, no longer a guaranteed first pick.
So I wonder if the manager hasn’t already made the decision not to follow through on the deal. Six million is a lot of money, and when you consider what Ange has done with his budget so far is it hard to believe that he doesn’t have two players earmarked for that kind of cash rather than just one? Just because we stand to bag that Champions League cash if we win this title it doesn’t mean we’re going to spend every penny, or spend recklessly.
Right now, that kind of outlay for Jota would be hard to justify. He just hasn’t performed, in recent months, with the consistency of someone you’d pay that kind of cash for. Carter Vickers, on the other hand, continues to grow into a role he looks born for.
If the fans had the choice and we could only have one of them, it would be him. I wonder if people inside Parkhead haven’t already made that choice.