Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp believes Diogo Jota made a smart decision to join the club even though he knew he faced the challenge of breaking up their well-established front three.
The Portugal international scored twice, including the Premier League’s quickest goal of the season after 97 seconds, as Klopp’s side cruised to a 4-0 win over Southampton.
Jota now has seven league goals for the campaign, the same as team-mate Sadio Mane and four fewer than Mohamed Salah, and no other player in the division has scored more.
The 24-year-old has 20 goals in 46 matches in all competitions since joining from Wolves in September 2020 — which includes three months out with a knee injury last winter.
His Premier League record for the club of 16 in 31 is even better and shows why he has flourished alongside Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino and not been intimidated by the competition they pose.
“An exceptional player, exceptional boy,” was Klopp’s assessment.
“A perfect signing as he has everything a Liverpool player in this squad needs; he has the technical skills, he has the physical skills and he is very smart so can learn all the tactical stuff quickly.
“He can also play the three forward positions and the number 10. He has the speed and desire to finish things off.
“It’s the right decision because hypothetically when I talk to a player and they say ‘Where will I play?’ it is decided by your performance.
“In the end it is about making 30 to 35 really good games instead of getting somehow through a season and playing 50 games.
“You need more than 11 players in a squad and you need more than three strikers even though we play with three strikers and he was smart enough to see that.
“His goalscoring record is pretty good, unfortunately he had a big injury last year and that is never helpful but he is back thank God and he fits really well into this team.”
Jota’s double laid the platform for the victory and goals either side of the interval from Thiago Alcantara, for the second successive match, and Virgil Van Dijk killed off Southampton.
Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl admitted his tactical plans in the first half backfired and he took full responsibility.
“Everyone could see we had no chance in the first half,” he said.
“We had big problems in the half-spaces, we could not stop them which is why we changed it at half-time but the game was gone at that moment.
“We wanted to surprise them a little bit but we surprised ourselves and it was definitely a mistake against a team on fire. I take the responsibility.
“I sent them out in the first half with a not-good plan on the pitch and it didn’t work.”