Jorginho has continued the fine form he displayed for Chelsea during the second half of last season while representing Italy at Euro 2020, helping his side to the semi-finals.
Watch back the highlights of Italy’s victory over Belgium at Euro 2020 and you will be hard-pressed to spot Jorginho among them.
There’s a single namecheck when the midfielder wins a free-kick and a couple of occasions in which he is pictured chasing Kevin De Bruyne, but that’s pretty much the lot.
Yet for those who viewed the game live, it would have been impossible to miss Jorginho’s influence. The Chelsea midfielder was the standout performer for the Azzurri, the man who dictated the tempo of their possession game and many of their attacks.
Jorginho completed 70 of the 71 passes he attempted across the 90 minutes. Right foot, left foot. Short and long. Under pressure or when given time. Nothing impacted the 29-year-old’s ability to find a teammate and to keep Roberto Mancini’s side in control of the quarter-final.
“Jorginho was a player who didn’t convince me completely but I was wrong,” Fabio Capello told Corriere dello Sport ahead of the game in Munich. “He’s Mancini’s main man. He knows how to direct the team.”
Capello is by far not the only person to have come around to Jorginho’s qualities in recent months. A large section of the Chelsea fanbase has also been won over by the Italian; his performances during the club’s run to Champions League glory playing a huge part in that.
The truth is Jorginho always faced something of an uphill battle after arriving at Stamford Bridge from Napoli in the summer of 2018. He was the totem of ‘Sarri-ball’ and by extension the lightning rod for criticism the moment things went awry, which they did at points during the Italian coach’s sole campaign in charge.
There were moments during that campaign when Jorginho was booed and jeered by Chelsea supporters. He responded in a composed yet determined manner.
“They have their right to criticise and I have the right to disagree,” he said, speaking on Football Focus back in March 2019. “I will prove them wrong and they will learn how to appreciate the way I play.”
It took two years for that scenario to play out. Jorginho had good spells and rough moments under Frank Lampard, but it wasn’t until Thomas Tuchel arrived in January that the midfielder’s fortunes really transformed.
Deployed as one of the double sixes alongside N’Golo Kante or Mateo Kovacic in Tuchel’s 3-4-2-1, Jorginho’s big weaknesses – his lack of mobility and recovery pace – were protected and he had a structure in which to thrive.
There was the odd poor display, such as in the shock 5-2 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion, but Jorginho largely went from strength to strength. His performances in both legs of the Champions League quarter-final tie against Porto was flawless and he was equally as impacted when Chelsea took on Real Madrid in the semi-finals.
“The results, the numbers, are there,” Jorginho said in May. “So whoever wants to say something different, they can have their opinion, but it will not affect me in a bad way.
“Criticism will always be there, in any job. It depends on how you take it. And for me, honestly, it’s just motivation, to work even harder.”
Ahead of the Champions League final, there was debate as to whether Jorginho should start. Yet for Tuchel, it was a given that the Italian international would line up in his midfield in Porto, something further highlighted the night before the game when he was chosen for the pre-match media press conference alongside Cesar Azpilicueta.
Across the 90 minutes that unfolded against Man City, Jorginho was assured and confident.
He constantly took the ball under pressure only to then open his body, find a teammate with a pass and get Chelsea moving forward. He also did the defensive side of the game expertly in the second period, restricting space and cutting off passing options.
“How can you find the words to describe it?,” Jorginho asked during an interview in the dressing room with Chelsea’s in-house media after the game. “Incredible. Amazing. Unbelievable.”
Jorginho took a few days off after the game in Portugal before linking up with the Italy squad. And at Euro 2020, he instantly picked up where he left off, with dominant performances throughout the group stage and now in the knockout rounds.
Italy are now just two games away from winning the tournament, something which would make Jorginho a European champion at club and international. It would also put him in contention to win this year’s Ballon d’Or, right?
“I don’t think about it,” he stated earlier in the week. “Everything that is happening is the consequence of hard work. “My priority is the group and celebrating together with my teammates and friends. This is more beautiful than celebrating alone.”
The likelihood of Jorginho winning this year’s Ballon d’Or is slim – it tends to be awarded to attacking players – yet he has already achieved something this year that is far greater and perhaps even more satisfying: turning his countless doubters into true believers.