Celtic winger Jota admits he is not getting carried away after taking another step forward in his career development after his inclusion in Portugal’s 55-man provisional World Cup squad.
The 23-year-old winger marked his return from a five-match absence with a muscle injury be stepping off the bench to score a clinching third goal in Sunday’s 3-0 Scottish Premiership victory over Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
The former Benfica star became an immediate fans favourite at Parkhead after a successful loan spell last season and has carried that impressive form into this season after signing a permanent long-term deal in the summer.
Having previously represented his country at various youth levels, Jota has yet to earn his first cap for the senior side, although head coach Fernando Santos has named him in his initial group which will be cut down to 26 next month.
Portugal were drawn in Group H alongside Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea during this winter’s FIFA tournament in Qatar and while it’s unlikely Jota will be included in the final squad with Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes, he reflected on how much his career trajectory has changed over the past two years.
He said: “That’s a very good moment for me and for my family. I’m just grateful for everything that is going on. Two years ago I was not even playing for any club. I was at a club of course, but I wasn’t having many minutes. Two years later, to be on this 55-man list is something very good for me, but this is just another step.
“I just need to keep working and enjoying it on the pitch, and everything will come naturally. You cannot just be obsessed with those kinds of things. I wake up every day with the mentality of being a better person and a better football player, and building a strong base to be better.”
Goals from Kyogo Furuhashi and Greg Taylor and a missed penalty from Giorgos Giakoumakis capped another clinical display from Ange Postecoglou’s side in West Lothian as they restored their four-point lead over Rangers at the top of the table.
Jota was delighted to find himself the scoresheet on his return to full fitness, converting a cross from fellow substitute David Turnbull in the closing minutes, and is now gunning for a starting spot in their final Champions League group stage clash against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.
He added: “It’s not a question for me, it’s one for the gaffer. But if he’s ready to put me in, I’m ready to fight for him and the club. I think the quality has been there in every game we’ve played in Europe and people who understand football can see that. The guys are playing well, there are just some details we’re not getting.
“In the Champions League, you pay a very high price if you’re not on it in every game. I think there’s always a determination in these games, but our aim for the rest of the season is to play every Premiership game as if it’s a Champions League game. We need to remind ourselves that we want to be better every day.
“In order to do that we just need to think as though it could be our last game. That’s the mentality we have to have. Every game is a good stage. You’re always under evaluation from your coach, from other teams, from your previous teams, from Celtic, everyone. You just need to be as consistent as possible.
“It was a very important moment for me coming back from injury, but ost of all it was about the victory for the team. This was a game that we knew was going to be very difficult like every season, every time we come here, but I was very happy to get the win.
“In football, you have to be ready for situations when you have an injury. Although we can be professional, some injuries come up because we can’t control everything. So when there are these setbacks we just need to fight back to get better every day and aim for the future.”