September 11 – Ex-Celtic star Jota is set for months on the sidelines after his new club, Al-Ittihad, revealed the £25 million man will not be registered as one of their foreign players for the upcoming season.
The Saudi Pro League allows up to eight players in domestic club squads but only seven can be named on a matchday. However, for the Asian Champions League the foreign player quota rules are tighter at 5+1 (five players of any nationality and one from an AFC member association). That is an increase this season from the previous 3+1 rule.
Unfortunately for Jota, Al-Ittihad committed to signing other talented players from Europe, such as Karim Benzema, Ngolo Kante and Fabinho, which has pushed him down the pecking order at the SPL outfit.
The Portuguese international’s fate was sealed by his new club’s £22 million deadline day acquisition of Italian defender Luiz Felipe, who is expected to take the fifth and final foreign place in the team, beside Benzema, Kante, Fabinho and fan-favourite Brazilian Romarinho.
The highly-rated 24-year-old was a statement signing for Saudi clubs, who proved they were capable of tempting young talent to the SPL as opposed to the retiring superstars they were previously associated with.
Jota has played five games for Al-Ittihad since his move in July but has failed to make a major impact at his new club, scoring just once. The player was a popular figure at former club Celtic.
Jota’s only opportunity for game time comes in the form of a loan move to the Turkish Super Lig, whose transfer window remains open until the September 15. The 28-time league champions Fenerbahce have shown interest in loaning the player in a move that would unite the winger with ex-old firm rival Ryan Kent.
The move away could act as an important message to young players considering the switch to Saudi Arabia after it has become clear that Al-Ittihad’s move for the 24-year-old talent significantly backfired for both player and club.
Al-Ittihad sit third in the Saudi Pro League, one point behind Neymar’s Al-Hilal and underdogs Al-Taawoun, after a near-perfect start to the season.
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com