Italy players believe ‘professor’ Jorginho is a contender for the Ballon d’Or after his stellar campaign with Chelsea and his country… Roberto Mancini has built his impressive team around the midfield pass master
- Jorginho has impressed for Italy on their path to the Euro 2020 semi-finals
- Midfielder is coming off the back of a Champions League winning campaign
- Jorginho’s team-mates believe he is one of the best midfielders in the world
Few players in the Premier League divide opinion more than Jorginho but Italy coach Roberto Mancini has no doubts about the man they call ‘the Professor’.
In three seasons at Chelsea, Jorginho has won the Europa League and the Champions League yet still not everybody is convinced.
While nobody would question the 29-year-old’s intelligence or passing ability, doubters point to his lack of pace and what they deem his safety-first approach.
Jorginho has emerged as a Ballon d’Or candidate after a stunning rise during 2020-21
He is known as the ‘professor’ among his Italy team-mates and his knowledge is proving vital
He was signed under Maurizio Sarri and never entirely convinced Frank Lampard before growing in importance again for Thomas Tuchel. But for Italy, who approach their first major semi-final for nine years, Jorginho is indispensable.
No player has made more appearances in Mancini’s three-year reign and he is key to Italy’s possession-based 4-3-3 system. It may raise eyebrows in England, but Jorginho is regarded so highly in Italy that team-mates and media believe he is a contender for the Ballon d’Or.
‘It is not up to me to say who should win it, but Jorginho would deserve it,’ said Italy forward Lorenzo Insigne, who played with Jorginho at Napoli from 2014-18.
Jorginho (left) impressed against Belgium in his midfield battle with Kevin De Bruyne (right)
The Chelsea midfielder (right) is essential to Roberto Mancini’s formula with Italy’s side
‘It’s correct that people are talking about him. He has had some brilliant years at Chelsea and we are proud to have a player like him in our team. We call him the Professor and he is a great player.’
Jorginho’s display in the 2-1 quarter-final win over Belgium highlighted his importance.
Whenever an Italy player needed a passing option, Jorginho was there. When Jorginho had the ball, he didn’t hang on to it for long. At times, it felt as though he was manoeuvring his team-mates around the pitch like remote-control cars.
‘Honestly, I don’t think about the Ballon d’Or,’ said Jorginho. ‘My priority is to think about the team because celebrating with your friends, all together, is much better than celebrating alone.’
If he does climb to the top step of the podium, he will have done it the hard way.
Born in Brazil, Jorginho — full name Jorge Luiz Frello Filho — left his hometown of Imbituba aged 14 to enrol at a football school more than 100 miles away.
He lifted the Champions League this season and team-mates feel he is among the world’s best
By 17, he was playing for the academy of Italian club Hellas Verona where he lodged with other young players in an ancient monastery.
‘I called my mum, crying and saying I wanted to come back and give up football but she just refused. So thanks mum, thanks dad for that because they have played a big part.’
Having survived those experiences, a Wembley semi-final will not worry Jorginho, though he will be keen to improve on his record there of two wins in eight games in the last three years.
Whatever he achieves in the remainder of Euro 2020, Jorginho will never convince everyone at Chelsea.
Yet even if Italy fall to Spain on Tuesday, nothing will shake Mancini’s faith in the Professor.