Diogo Jota must start against Manchester City: Neil Humphreys
Liverpool's new signing in red-hot form with hat-trick against Atalanta
The scouts of other elite clubs should hang their heads in shame. Liverpool have done it again.
They possess a third eye when it comes to recruitment. They see things others miss.
Diogo Jota was a decent-sized fish in a pond at Wolverhampton Wanderers, but he was Moby Dick in the Reds' 5-0 win over Atalanta yesterday morning (Singapore time).
No one catches this kid. No one stops him. He's still only 23, but already walks with giants at Liverpool. He belongs among champions.
How do the Reds keep doing this? How does their peerless scouting network continue to find square pegs for square holes that were previously invisible to the casual observer?
Last season, Liverpool's attacking triumvirate were both omnipresent and omnipotent. There was no rest for the wondrous.
But Roberto Firmino's selfless devotion to his teammates, often sacrificing goalscoring opportunities to support others, meant he was the most likely to be sacrificed if his form dipped.
Never a prolific striker, the Brazilian's broader contributions were more important than his goal statistics. But he's looked leggy of late and managed just a single goal in 11 games this season.
Firmino had earned the night off in Atalanta.
But Jota took his place and arguably earned the right to start against Manchester City on Monday morning.
The quality of his goals was just as notable as the quantity. The Portuguese winger started in the middle of Liverpool's attacking trio and provided an urgency that elevated his team's performance.
Indeed, his Champions League hat-trick defined the art of goalscoring. His first, a flicked finish, had a touch of Lionel Messi's grace.
His second involved a body spin that left his marker with what Sir Alex Ferguson once called "twisted blood". Ferguson was referring to the work of Ryan Giggs, but the comparison stands.
And the third was a pleasing jaunt down memory lane for the Merseysiders. When Jota rounded the goalkeeper, he looked a lot like Fernando Torres.
Using Messi, Giggs and Torres to describe a new signing smacks of hyperbole, but those names are at least a testament to Jota's varied strengths in front of goal.
His slight frame and low centre of gravity allow him to be both the impudent dribbler and the incisive forward. His three goals were clipped, smashed and curled, which sound like variations of potatoes but underline his versatility.
Jota can mix it up.
His goals seem to come from an internal jukebox, always selecting the right finish for the right occasion. He has scored six goals in 11 days for his new club. Firmino has netted just five times in 2020.
Obviously, Jota and Firmino are apples and oranges in a technical sense, as manager Juergen Klopp invariably sends them out with different responsibilities.
The tireless Firmino drifts away from the box and takes defenders with him, leaving space for Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to steal goals and headlines. Against Atalanta, Jota profited from quick, long balls, utilising his speed to cut inside.
As a natural winger, Jota's instincts are to carve out a path to goal. As a gifted playmaker, Firmino tends to seek out others.
But the talented pair do not represent a selection headache for Klopp. They represent options.
Last season, the common refrain among nitpicking critics was that Klopp boasted the best XI in world football, but not a squad deep enough to challenge on several fronts. Now, he's building that squad.
With the Champions League win wrapped up in an hour, Klopp utilised those options and made five substitutions, which included replacing Jota with Firmino.
The precautionary move might suggest Jota gets the nod against City as Klopp can now make such decisions based entirely on form and tactical requirements, rather than a Darwinist "pick whoever's fit" approach.
Based on form, Jota deserves a shot at Liverpool's title rivals.
But the greater concern for the likes of City and their fellow silverware contenders is how the Reds nabbed Jota for just a few million more than Manchester United spent on Donny van de Beek.
Jota was hardly an undiscovered diamond in the rough. He was knocking in hat-tricks and starring in Wolves' Europa League campaign last season.
He has seven goals in 10 games for Liverpool. Van de Beek has yet to start a league game for United. That's not a coincidence.
The Reds' eye for talent is second only to their ability to incorporate a new signing and immediately improve both the player and the team around him.
The greatest trick of the greatest sides is to find solutions for problems that do not yet exist. Nobody does it better than Liverpool.