Diogo Jota growing into a world-class striker, claims Jurgen Klopp

The Portugal international has scored 20 goals in a season for the first time

Carl Markham
Sunday 03 April 2022 11:30
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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes Diogo Jota is growing into a world-class forward (Peter Byrne/PA)
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes Diogo Jota is growing into a world-class forward (Peter Byrne/PA)

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes Diogo Jota is becoming a world-class striker after the Portugal international reached 20 goals in a season for the first time.

Jota’s first-half goal in the 2-0 win over Watford was his 14th in 27 Premier League matches this season and set up a 10th successive top-flight win after Fabinho added a late penalty.

The 25-year-old’s overall strike-rate is 33 in 70 appearances since joining the club in September 2020 and he has proved to be an astute £43million addition to a forward line of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino which was already one of the best on the planet.

“Since he came in he improved a lot, that is a little to do with his age, (but) he is growing into the top world-class striker role step by step,” said Klopp.

“He is delivering for Portugal pretty consistently, which is a difficult job to do with all the offensive talent they have, so he is actually the player we thought he would be and also a little bit better.”

Before arriving at Anfield, Jota was viewed as a hard-working wide forward with some individual talent at Wolves but Liverpool’s recruitment team looked beyond that to the player they could mould him into.

And that has evidenced this season in particular as, having never scored more than nine Premier League goals in a single campaign, he is currently only six behind team-mate Salah in the race for the Golden Boot.

“It was always clear that Diogo is not a pure winger, Diogo is a striker who can play on the wing and defend the wing. Both wings, thank god,” added Klopp.

“He played for us all three positions up front and did always really well.

He is growing into the top world-class striker role step by step

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on Diogo Jota

“Where we struggle sometimes is being too static. This (the first goal) was a very fluent situation where Diogo was high up, a great cross and then if there is nobody there it is just a cross with no outcome.

“(But it was) a great goal. Absolutely. He is that guy. It was, for sure, always in him.

“I said it a couple of times: at Wolves he had a different job and he did that job that good that we thought, we want him.”

Jota is targeting more goals and further contributions will be crucial if Liverpool are to not only overtake Manchester City in the title race, with next Sunday’s clash at the Etihad looming on the horizon, but remain on course for an unlikely, unprecedented quadruple.

“It’s the first time in my career that I reach 20, so just keep on going because we still have plenty to play for,” the Portuguese told liverpoolfc.com.

While Liverpool’s focus is on silverware, Watford’s remains solely on survival as a 13th defeat in their last 15 league matches still leaves them in the relegation zone.

They have key matches against Leeds, Brentford and Burnley before the end of the month and manager Roy Hodgson was encouraged by the display at Anfield.

“The performance against Liverpool gives me heart and the encouragement that we can perhaps ask these teams a few questions,” he said.

“I think it is going to be very important for the players to not forget that they are capable of doing what they did.

Watford manager Roy Hodgson is encouraged by recent performances (Peter Byrne/PA)

“They have to understand too that we are going to have to go out there and do this again.

“Sometimes after you have done something well but haven’t got a result, you want the next game to be easier or not work so hard.

“We have to understand that what we did and the way we played (at Anfield), that is our only chance of survival.”

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