In another life, Jorginho could have lined up in a different shade of blue in Porto this Saturday.
The Brazil-born Italy international was on the cusp of joining Pep Guardiola’s champions in 2018 as they set out to build a record-breaking season with 100 points.
But things change. Chelsea announced the arrival of Maurizio Sarri as their new head coach and the allure of partnering with his Napoli coach in West London proved too strong.
Jorginho was Chelsea’s unlikely top scorer this season with seven goals
It’s a sliding door moment that Jorginho himself has to look back on and think about, especially given his experiences at Stamford Bridge.
With Sarri turning out to be an unpopular appointment, the little central midfielder was often plagued with the same brush.
But free from the shackles of association, he has now established himself as a key player at the heart of Thomas Tuchel’s team. He could be poised to finally enter the hearts of Chelsea supporters when called up at Estadio do Dragao.
In the summer of 2018, it became clear that Jorginho would become a Premier League player.
Napoli had just been cut to the Serie A title by an unbridled Juventus team. Sarri’s side was praised for playing some of the most attractive football on the continent, and at the center of it was his number 8, pulling the strings.
Pep Guardiola had wanted the Brazilian-born midfielder to join Manchester City
Those performances had caught the attention of the Premier League champions, who came in to strike a deal. They believed it was done. Sarri, recently announced as Antonio Conte’s Chelsea replacement, made sure that wasn’t the case.
“We were close, but in the end Jorginho decided to stay with Sarri,” Guardiola complained at the time.
“I said before that I want players who want to come here. He didn’t want to. We tried, we thought it was done, but at the last corner he chose Chelsea.
‘Nothing to say but good luck at Chelsea. English football has an exceptional midfielder. ‘
Initially, Chelsea supporters disagreed. Sarri-ball, beloved in Italy, hated the bridge, and Jorginho was the epitome of it on the field.
Anger at the coach and playing style also sparked resentment over their new recruit, who started all but one Premier League game that season.
Jorginho was brought to the club by Maurizio Sarri, who was unpopular with Chelsea fans
The bond between Jorginho and Sarri was so intrinsic that it was almost natural that he would follow the head coach to Juventus after just one season in England.
Instead, he stuck it out under Frank Lampard, with his roster now free of any presumptions of preferential treatment.
His status as an automatic pick suffered, but so did Chelsea, with the prodigious performance of a top four finish while under a transfer embargo, quickly forgotten after a difficult start to the 2020-21 campaign at over £ 200 million to new faces failed. to run on the ground.
The Italian played a key role in the club’s renaissance under Thomas Tuchel
The blame for this was placed at Lampard’s feet by the board as he paid for the slow start with his job. Jorginho himself was equally critical.
“Look, I’m going to be really sincere here at Lampard. I believe that since he was a legend at the club, he skipped some of the steps it took to learn before moving to a major club, ” he told ESPN in Brazil.
‘He came to a club where he is a legend, with no experience at other clubs. I think he came too early, took a few steps forward and frankly wasn’t ready for a job at this level yet. ‘
It was a bold move for a player who had not yet wanted to endear himself to the fans after two and a half seasons to criticize such an icon of Stamford Bridge. It brought unavoidable repercussions.
While some stood up for him and insisted he merely pointed out the obvious, fans disagreed with such an overt attack on one of their enduring heroes.
On Twitter, some wondered if he was deliberately trying to stir up fans’ feelings towards him. Others suggested it didn’t matter if he was right, they just didn’t want to hear it.
It brought Jorginho right back to where he started at Chelsea, in the opposite camp for supporters, right up against them.
However, his form towards the end of the season was a cause for concern at the club
However, under Thomas Tuchel, he could have let his football speak. The German has built his midfield based on rotating Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante, with two players at the same time.
Having played eight games under Lampard earlier this season, he failed to take the field only twice under the former Paris Saint-Germain boss in the second half of the league game.
His Champions League performance was also praised – he played all 180 minutes in the matches against Porto and Real Madrid.
He has also made his mark for goal by shaking off early season’s problems from the penalty spot and taking on the unexpected role of Chelsea’s top scorer in the Premier League this season thanks to his improvement from 12 meters.
His blatant mistake against Arsenal nearly cost the club their place in the Champions League
Having missed three times earlier in the campaign – once against Krasnodar and then against Liverpool and Arsenal in the league – Jorginho has scored each of the four penalties he has taken since Tuchel’s arrival and will take on duties if he Saturday is called up.
Being able to finish from 12 meters won’t win fans on its own, and other elements of his game are still a cause for concern – his failure against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge earlier this month undid almost all of their hard work. to get himself back into the top four race.
Still, his influence on Tuchel’s side is undeniable, and a renewed sense of belonging has emerged in recent months.
“How can I want to leave the club?” he recently asked reporters this month after there was talk of an exit.
That’s not the point. It’s not supposed to even talk about it now. I have two more years and like I said, I really feel at home here. So there is no point in even talking about it.
And we have only just started under Thomas [Tuchel] – we have a lot more to do here. ‘
Chelsea fans would want little more if Jorginho could help deliver the ultimate prize on Saturday night.
He could make another significant contribution when Chelsea and City meet in the final in Porto