When the post-mortem of Liverpool's season begins this summer, Virgil van Dijk's absence will be pointed to as to why they relinquished their Premier League crown so meekly.
With an injury-torn defence like the Merseysiders' it would be impossible to stay with Manchester City in their current form that's for sure.
But if Diogo Jota didn't sit out three vital months then Jurgen Klopp's side may not have gone from champions to struggling to contend for a Champions League place.
They may, at least, be leading the rest of the pack.
“It was a big miss. The moment he got injured, he was in a really good moment, which then makes it even worse,” said Kop boss Klopp at the weekend.
It didn't even look like Liverpool needed Jota when they splashed out £41m to bring him from Wolves in the summer.
Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane had fired the Reds to their first league title in 30 years.
Why fix what clearly wasn't broken?
But the signing was about adding another cog to the machine to keep it rolling when tiredness would inevitably set in for the front three who have played so much football for the last three years.
Jota was still expected to face a battle to get chances but he immediately made his presence felt with a goal on his league debut for the Reds against Arsenal.
Then came winners against Sheffield United and West Ham before a Champions League hat-trick against Atalanta.
“What does he bring? It’s quality,” said Klopp.
“He can play all three positions up front. He makes us stronger, which is really good.”
Jota offered Liverpool an alternative rather than a replacement to the front three.
If teams sat in, Jota provided another key to unlock them.
But in December, he suffered a knee injury against FC Midtjylland.
Top trending sport stories right now
Would Liverpool have got a second against West Brom on December 27 if they had Jota to come off the bench?
Maybe a winner at Newcastle could have come from the Portuguese ace or an equaliser at Southampton.
Then there was the goalless draw against Manchester United when the Reds were crying out for something different.
Before defeats at home to Burnley and Brighton might have been different with a fit and firing Jota to offer fresh impetus and legs.
He provided that against his former club Wolves on Monday night to get a vital three points and inject new life into the Reds' top-four hopes.
There's speculation that Jota could replace one of the regular front three if they wanted out this summer should the Reds fail to qualify for the Champions League.
But Liverpool didn't buy him to do that. They brought him in to add to their attack.
Judging by City's relentless form this term, they need all the help they can get to battle for the title next season.
“It’s really important we have him back, for plenty of reasons,” added Klopp.
Jota's absence is one of the main reasons their title defence crumbled but he could play a big part in the rebuild.
Source: Read Full Article