The news today that Jota might be a candidate for a call-up for the World Cup is interesting, and welcome, although I think a lot of us wince these days whenever one of our players gets recognition on that stage because of the fixture schedule.
But all the same, it’s hugely important that our players do get that recognition and I’m especially pleased that Jota seems to be on the brink of it. Because I’ve heard a lot of our players in years gone by choose to leave the club because playing in Scotland does not come with that level of respect. It is not just good for Jota, this is good for the club.
It does nobody any good, not the players and not the fans, to have Scottish football seen as a backwater or the kind of place where players get forgotten about. For a national side like Portugal to be looking, impressed, at what a player is achieving here … that’s a shot in the arm not just for us and for him but the whole game here.
As much as anything, though, this is a huge vote of confidence in Ange and the style of football we play. Nobody would be entertaining this idea if we were a kick and rush team like the one across the city, playing turgid, dull, boring stuff.
But the Portuguese national coaches watch the way we play and how he fits into that and think “He could do a job for us in an attack-minded team.” It’s a tribute to our management and the way he wants us to approach our games that Jota has risen so far.
How Benfica fans – who weren’t happy anyway with the decision to sell him – must weep over what might have been here.
When we announced his signing on loan I was stunned that they were allowing one of their crown jewels to leave with an option to buy. Perhaps they didn’t think that we would, or could, activate it or that the player would back that decision … but from almost the first he’s clearly enjoyed every minute he’s spent here.
This would be the full vindication of this move.
He might only be in the 55 strong squad, and he probably won’t make the full World Cup team, but he’s getting the attention and recognition that he deserves, at the highest level, and this is just the beginning for him, as it is for this team.