Jorginho’s low-key but “irreplaceable” midfield presence has been the cornerstone of Italy’s rebirth, from World Cup flops to Euro 2020 contenders.
Jorginho qualifies for Italy thanks to his grandfather from the northern region of Vicenza. PA
The low-key but “irreplaceable” presence in midfielder Jorginho has been the cornerstone of Italy’s rebirth from World Cup flops to Euro 2020 contenders with a semi-final against Spain pending at London from his Chelsea club on Tuesday.
One of the Brazilian contingent from Azzurri along with his national teammate Emerson Palmieri and Atalanta defender Rafael Toloi, Jorginho, born in the southern town of Imbituba, brought the technical flair of his native country to his Italy by adoption.
“With Jorginho everything seems simple. He is essential to this untouchable team,” said midfielder partner Marco Verratti.
“Jorginho and Verratti are two phenomena and keep the team going,” continued Inter Milan midfielder Nicolo Barella, who scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win over favorites Belgium, which propelled Italy into the last four.
“This midfielder, along with that of (Serie A champions) Inter Milan, is among the strongest I have ever played in. Between us, we create rivalries that push us to do better and to win.” , added Barella.
Against the triple European champions it will be another battle as Italy look to take their unbeaten run to 33 consecutive matches and move closer to a title they last won in 1968.
“With Spain it will be a difficult game, we are two similar teams who both want to play the ball,” continued Barella.
Left-back Leonardo Spinazzola, another of the driving forces behind Italy’s Euro 2020 race, will be sidelined after breaking his Achilles tendon against the Red Devils.
Emerson, a native of Santos, another Champions League winner with the Blues, will likely take on the role this week.
Jorginho qualifies for the Azzurri thanks to his grandfather from the northern region of Vicenza.
“I feel like I have the Brazilian technique with the ball, but the Italian mentality of always training hard and winning,” said Jorginho.
As at Stamford Bridge, where his partnership with Frenchman N’Golo Kante inspired the English club to victory in the Champions League against Manchester City, the 29-year-old is the precious shadow worker of the Azzurri.
Nicknamed the “Professor”, or “Radio Jorginho” because of his voice instructions on the pitch, he is one of only two outfielders to have played all five of the Euro matches, alongside defender Leonardo Bonucci.
“He has a strong personality, in a team he is really the commander,” former Hellas Verona sporting director Mauro Gibellini, who spotted him as a child in Brazil, told AFP.
Gibellini had created a football school in the South American country.
He didn’t hesitate when he saw the 12-year-old boy, whose first coach was his mother, a former footballer, at a tournament in Jorginho’s hometown.
After a few years in this school in Brazil, Jorginho arrives in Europe and Hellas Verona where he evolves in Serie B then in Serie A.
He then joined Napoli for four years starting in 2014 where he flourished under Maurizio Sarri whom he followed to Chelsea.
“Jorginho has never changed as a child he played the way he plays today,” Gibellini continued.
“He’s got a great quality, before the ball comes in he already knows where to point the game. He doesn’t need to touch the ball more than once or twice.
“He plays with his head held high. He dictates the tempo including in defense, when it comes to pressing and building the team.
“Even though he’s not powerful and not very fast, he makes up for it with his intelligence.”
Since 2018, Jorginho has been at Chelsea, winning the Europa League in 2019 with Sarri, ahead of last season’s Champions League success with Thomas Tuchel.
“I would like to feel the same emotions with the national team,” said the 33-time capped player.
“This group looks like Chelsea, it’s wonderful, they are so hungry and want to prove something, from the youngest to the most experienced.
“It’s also my first major competition with Italy and I really want to do well.”