Filipe Jota and the key Celtic characteristics pinpointed as transfer target handed Ronaldo comparison
Celtic loan target Jota used to clatter the Benfica canteen each morning – now the wide man has been tipped to have Scottish Premiership defenders for breakfast.
The 22-year-old Portuguese ace is heading to Glasgow for the season with the Hoops having the option to make the move permanent if they cough up nearly £7m next summer.
Jota – whose full name is Joao Filipe – spent last term in La Liga with struggling Real Valladolid where his temporary switch didn’t quite go to plan.
But the winger is still highly regarded at Benfica, where he exploded on to the scene as a kid as part of a golden group of Portugal youngsters known as Generation 99, that included £113m Atletico Madrid signing Joao Felix, Man United’s Diogo Dalot, Diogo Leite, Rafael Leao, and Gedson Fernandes.
Jota was even tipped as the next Cristiano Ronaldo when he was a teenager leading his nation to victory in the Under 17 and under 19 Euros.
It hasn’t quite worked out that way for the attacker as his initial impact in the Benfica first team under now Wolves boss Bruno Lage eventually led to frustration amid a series of cameo appearances.
But he’s keen to kick-start his career again and has a number of coaches and managers who’ve spent years predicting big things.
It was Lage who brought him in to the fold at Benfica when he stepped up from being the B team boss, along with a group of the club’s hot talents.
He said: “What I say as a joke is that there are now six breakfasts – because Jota eats for three!”
Jota followed the Ronaldo diet of eating up to six meals a day but he’s also hungry for success on the pitch.
Benfica’s technical coordinator Professor Antonio Fonte Santa helped bring him through the age groups in Portugal and he was blown away by the youngster from first sight.
Fonte Santa reckons Jota is a complete natural and SPFL defenders might need to be on their guard for a winger that thrives on taking men on and leaving them in his wake.
The professor said: “He dribbled like someone drinking water. It was like dribbling with the right foot or with the left foot, going out, swerving from one side or the other. These characteristics that he already had when he arrived at Benfica remain today.
“Joao grew up watching many videos of feints on YouTube, learning how to do them and then when he arrived at training he taught them to his colleagues.
“I learned a feint one day and the next I wanted to learn another. That’s in his blood.”
Jota honed his skills after studying YouTube but Fonte Santa reckons there’s something more old-fashioned about his playing style.
The youngster’s ability was honed on the streets of Lisbon and his old coach reckons he can be the key to unlocking modern defences.
He said: “Our methodology at Benfica is based on the old street football. And what we planned for Jota were his exercises against four or five opponents, precisely for him to develop the dribble so that it was not a resource, but a real offensive weapon for him to use in favour of the team.
“Jota is prepared to solve the chaos. As he is a natural unbalancer, we always wanted him to use that to make the team play.
“He was trained to be the can opener he is today – a player who, if he needs to take the ball to a corner and get rid of two or three opponents, is capable of doing it.
“If you give him confidence, he picks up the game and solves problems.
“He’s a humble kid who has his feet firmly on the ground and doesn’t easily climb the clouds.
“If he has the confidence of the coaches and that bit of luck that is always necessary, he will be a serious player.”
Portugal youth coach Ricardo Monsanto also believes Jota sticking to his street style keeps defenders guessing as he doesn’t play by the book.
He remembers an under 15 international tournament and said: “We had a quality team, but the opening game was not going well.
“A little before the break, Jota turned to me and said: ‘Manger, let me know and I’ll solve this’.
“The truth is that I threw him at half-time and he came up with a goal and an assist.
“Jota still has that unpredictable street football, which you don’t see much anymore. What we see now are heavily formatted players.
“And he, despite playing since he was eight years old, maintains neighbourhood football and that healthy thing of street versus street games, or gangs against gangs. That’s what makes him different.”
Jota has grown up with a lifetime of comparisons. When he was player of the tournament at the under 17 Euros, it was Ronaldo’s name that was unhelpfully thrown at him.
As he came through at Benfica it was Joao Felix held up for competition, with his pal eventually leaving Portugal for Spain for an eye-watering fee.
The youngster is clearly his own man though.
He said: “It depends on the job and what the team asks for, all players are different. I’m Jota, Felix is Felix. He has different characteristics from me. How I use these characteristics is not up to me, it’s up to the manager.”