Somewhere in a parallel universe, Diogo Jota has just led Telford United to the first Champions League title in their history, one year after doing the same in the Europa League.
Under their Portuguese coach, Telford — who had never played in the Football League before Jota took over — have stormed through the divisions of English football, establishing themselves in the Premier League and becoming a major European force by the early 2030s.
Sadly for Telford fans, their club’s rise is merely a product of Jota’s passion for the Football Manager computer game, to which he devoted some serious hours during the spring lockdown.
Diogo Jota has started his Liverpool career in blistering fashion with seven goals in 10 games
‘I am coaching Telford United,’ Jota revealed in an interview at the time. ‘I’m quite addicted but in a good way. I really like to play and use a good part of my free time involved in football, even through esports.’
Yet Jota’s hobby reveals two important details: first, he is a football nut and, second, he takes a close interest in his local area — ideal traits for any player who joins a new club, particularly one of the strongest in the world.
Telford is 20 miles from Wolverhampton and his choice on Football Manager shows Jota had clearly researched the clubs in the surrounding area and developed an affinity for them.
So perhaps a move to Southport, Marine or Runcorn Linnets may be on the cards. Jota has settled so quickly at Liverpool since his £41million move from Wolves on September 19 that he is pushing hard for a starting spot in perhaps the most effective front three in Europe — Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
Jota is an avid player of PC game Football Manager and takes charge of Telford FC
Jota, scorer of a brilliant Champions League hat-trick at Atalanta on Tuesday night, has made an immediate impression on his team-mates and the coaches, justifying the lengths to which Jurgen Klopp’s assistant Pepijn Lijnders went to make the case for signing him.
Liverpool’s main summer target had been Ismaila Sarr but their interest cooled when Watford demanded more than £50m for the wide attacker — and when it became clear that Jota was available for significantly less.
Lijnders was aware of Jota from his time in Portugal where he spent eight years with FC Porto from 2006-14. Liverpool have been particularly impressed by his work-rate, eye for goal, tactical intelligence and excellent English.
‘He’s how players should be when they join us,’