Following the accolade today of being named the third-best men’s player in the world in 2021 according to the Ballon d’Or voters, we celebrate the achievement by looking at what Jorginho has said about himself and his football during his Chelsea days.
Those of you who have been present at the Bridge while the Brazilian-born midfielder is on the pitch will know he is very vocal, and that has also been the case away from the ground, at our Cobham training ground.
He is always the one laughing and joking, never far from the crime scene after a prank, but when it comes to discussing football and his role on the pitch, Jorginho has talked a good game since the first day he arrived.
We have looked back through some of the many interviews he has done with the website, The 5th Stand and the matchday programme over the years, to bring you an in-depth look at Jorginho the footballer – as told by the man himself...
In Italy, Jorginho’s midfield role is called a ‘regista’ – which is also what they call a film director, to give you an idea of what the position entails. Here’s how he sees it.
‘I think it depends more on the style of play that the coach wants. If the coach wants more of a holding midfielder, it’s maybe not my characteristics they are looking for. Yes, I defend as well but my job is not just defending, it’s also building from behind and helping the team to play better, to have a good connection and a lot of communication. So it’s maybe a different role being like a regista, because from there you can really help the whole team.
‘I actually started first as a striker, and then I moved back to be a 10 when I was a kid. From that position, I eventually moved back to be a regista, but I was still only 13.’
Shortly after taking on the vice-captaincy in the early weeks of Frank Lampard’s tenure as head coach, Jorginho discussed his leadership qualities and how he could help a young squad – but also what he could learn from his team-mates.
‘It’s really important to have the recognition from your coach and to have the trust of him as well.
‘I feel that I’m able to take on this new sort of responsibility and really help my team-mates. That’s something new for me in my career, but it’s not something that’s changed for me as a person.
‘I don’t think it’s anything that I’ve changed, it’s always been like that for me on the pitch and perhaps people are noticing it more, but for me it’s always been that way. When I’m out there I always want to help my team-mates.
‘It is important not just for us [experienced players] to help but also for the younger players to look at us and maybe learn from us. It is very important for them to listen and all teams have players who want to help the younger guys too.
‘It’s also important for us to listen to them, because we can learn from the young players too. Everyone can learn off others and improve every day and we just need to keep supporting one another.’
Anyone who has seen Jorginho away from the pitch will know a smile is rarely far from his face. He is the chief prankster at the training ground and just an all-round happy guy, and that all comes naturally to him.
‘It’s not something I do on purpose, it’s just who I am. I like always joking around and to keep laughing. We’re here working every day so it’s better to have a good time together.
‘I feel blessed, because I’m living my dream. That’s why I always try to smile and to be happy. But everything changes when I go on the pitch! Then, my focus is just on the game.’
Despite his seriousness on the pitch, that joy of playing what is, after all, known as the beautiful game never leaves Jorginho.
‘What’s incredibly important is to never forget where you’re from. Even though in football there’s a lot of pressure on us and it demands a lot in our day-by-day, we need to remember that football is more than just results, and that it’s also about what people feel in the heart, it’s about your love for the game.
‘You have to remember where you’re from and you have to remember what football gives and provides for so many people. That’s really important and I remember that every day and it serves as a motivation for me to go out there and improve.’
Tactically, Serie A and the Premier League are like chalk and cheese, although it must be said that English football has come a long way from the direct football that was the norm in years gone by. For Jorginho, that meant he had to adapt to a new way of operating.
‘More tackles, more fighting for the ball than just tactical games. So that was really different, and when I first moved it was not just different, but really hard as well. I had to adapt myself, I had to improve, I had to learn and I’m grateful that I came here, where I could learn from this amazing championship that is the Premier League.
‘I think I’ve learned a lot and I’ve improved a lot, defensively, and also in terms of intensity and putting in the energy, and tackles. The benefits come from adapting to these things, because if you don’t adapt yourself here, you need to leave. So I adapted, I learned a lot, and I’m really glad about that.’
Since Thomas Tuchel became Blues boss in January, Jorginho has pretty much exclusively operated as part of a two-man central midfield – or as one of our ‘double sixes’, as they’ve been called. Usually, the man alongside him is either Mateo Kovacic or N’Golo Kante, and here is how he views his role next to each of them.
‘When it’s Kova, his style is to play short, to come, so I know if he wants to play one-two or when he wants some space to move forward and to dribble. So, I just try to help him, either give him the space, or come over to help him and give him an option – whatever he needs to get out of the situation. If I understand that he wants to dribble – and he has the ability to do that – I just attract my opponent to create more space for him, and he just goes.
‘With Kante, it’s kind of the same. When you play with your mates, you need to understand each other, and understand their characteristics as well. So, I know that Kante has big power, so I tell him when he can turn. With Kante, it’s more about talking: “Turn!” “Man on!” or talking so he knows I’m there for the short pass. So, I just try to give him an option to do a one-two and get out.
‘It’s kind of the same, it’s not that different to be honest. You just need to understand the situations on the pitch.’
Technically, there are few players as tight as Jorginho, whose close control is usually immaculate and when he passes the ball it seems he has it on a string at times. In his three years in England it has seemed to improve with each passing season and that’s something the man himself puts down to one thing.
‘I like to say that it has come on a lot – I think my passing ability comes naturally to me but of course, I do work on this in training all the time.
‘Yes, I do think I have improved during my time at Chelsea and of course, I know my team-mates better and how we play. It takes time to know one another but we are doing this very well and I hope my passing can help us get out of situations and attack the opponents.
‘When you play from behind you see the whole pitch. I try to think, “What do I need to do?” before the ball comes. That gives you confidence and helps a lot.’
Of course, it’s impossible to look at Jorginho’s game and not mention penalties. Although he’s a long way off Frank Lampard’s club-record tally of successful conversions, he did achieve a rather unique first last season, as he finished as our leading league scorer with seven goals – all of them penalties.
In recent times he’s gone away from his previous inimitable technique, but his mindset remains the same once the spot-kick has been awarded.
‘I try to breathe and to think about what I’ve practised. That gives me confidence. The fans behind the goal do not affect me. It motivates me.
‘In that moment, when the referee’s whistle is coming… Deep breath. Just focus on the keeper. The penalty. The contest. After the ball goes in, it’s like a relief.’