As we continue our build-up to tomorrow’s Carabao Cup final at Wembley against Liverpool, Jorginho talks about his return to a stadium at which he has experienced so much and Chelsea’s secret to success on the biggest of stages…
The summer of 2021 will live long in the English football psyche but even longer for those of an Italian persuasion like Jorginho, the Brazilian-born midfielder who moved to Verona as a teenager and opted to represent the country of his formative years in the professional game.
His exploits at Euro 2020, delayed by 12 months and culminating in the semi-finals and final being staged at Wembley, saw him ultimately voted into third place in the Ballon d’Or awards later that year. He had earlier been named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year as recognition not just of international glory but club triumphs in the Champions League and Super Cup.
Now, thirty-three weeks to the day since that incredible evening for the Azzurri, Jorginho will return to north London looking to make more memories, this time in the blue of Chelsea.
‘It means a lot,’ he told us in an exclusive chat at Cobham this week about his imminent return to Wembley.
‘I had a few games there that I don’t like to remember but the last one is a good memory so I’m going back there with the same positive energy to try to win this cup as well.
‘This one is definitely a big target for me because I don’t have it and I need to tick it off. We’re going to try everything, as hard as we can, to win another trophy for the club.’
Mixed emotions are inextricably linked to Jorginho’s Wembley trips. He has been on the beaten side three times there as a Chelsea player, twice in the FA Cup final and also in the League Cup final during his first season in English football. This will be his fourth Wembley appearance in a domestic final.
Even his greatest moment back in July came tinged with the initial disappointment of Jordan Pickford saving his shoot-out spot-kick before Italy triumphed, though the 30-year-old is quick to point out that it was his successful conversion in the semi-final against Spain that booked his side a place in the final in the first place.
As before every big game, he will be doing his homework on the opposition goalkeeper and practising his unique penalty-taking style just in case, though it is the prospect of a full crowd at the national stadium that most excites him ahead of this latest visit.
For the Euros semi-finals and final, Wembley was only partially filled to around 60,000 due to Covid-19 measures, while just a third of that number were permitted for the FA Cup final last season against Leicester City. Worse still, our clash with Arsenal a year earlier was played in front of an empty stadium and so Jorginho will take extra time to appreciate the sights and sounds of a bumper cup final crowd tomorrow afternoon.
‘It’s always an amazing atmosphere,’ he said of Wembley. ‘A big stadium and one of the most important stadiums in the world so going there every time is a nice feeling. I can’t wait to be there with the team again and see how it’s going to be.
‘It’s been really mixed for me over the years because I experienced all of the different situations. Now I hope it’s going to be a full stadium because that’s the best feeling ever for whoever loves this sport.’
While he has featured in two of our past four outings, the Blues vice-captain reports feeling physically well, even if he knows a place in our increasingly competitive midfield is far from guaranteed.
Mateo Kovacic has seemingly shrugged off the problem that led to his early withdrawal against Lille, while N’Golo Kante was on top form in that 2-0 Champions League victory against his countrymen, teeing up Christian Pulisic for our second goal of the game.
‘I’m feeling quite good and really excited for this game so let’s see,’ stated Jorginho. ‘In the end, the most important thing is that we win the trophy, not me being on the pitch, so as long as we can win then I’m happy.
‘The competition is good because when you have top players like this pushing hard with very good quality, I know it’s hard for the coach to make a choice. We know we can rely on it because whoever goes out there is going to give everything and the standard is high.
‘We have all been working hard to deserve to be there so we know whoever is on the pitch will play well and contribute for the team.’
With the trophy cabinet at Stamford Bridge creaking under the weight of recent additions, there is no doubt this Chelsea group have developed a knack for winning on the biggest of stages, but what is their secret?
Jorginho believes it comes down to an addictive, insatiable appetite from the whole group to keep on experiencing those magical moments of glory.
‘It’s our hunger for winning trophies,’ he explained. ‘When you win one, you don’t get comfortable and you want to win more, that’s the secret.
‘You push even harder and work even harder to try to win more because every time you win something, the next time it’s going to be even more difficult with the other teams coming for you.
‘That’s why we are working hard to try to win again and again because that’s the mentality we have here. We like the feeling of it so we keep pushing to try to win again because we like it. We try to be the best that we can be for the club and for the supporters because this club and this shirt deserves to be up there.’
Unlike our most recent final successes against Palmeiras and Villarreal, the 2022 Carabao Cup final can perhaps be most closely aligned to last May’s Champions League clash with Manchester City.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel believes Liverpool are slight favourites, pointing to their 10-point lead over us in the Premier League table, and it is impossible to deny that the Merseysiders are in red-hot form right now, having won nine games in a row in all competitions. Yet Jorginho has been in football long enough to know that every opponent has frailties as well as strengths.
‘Every team has good and bad things so we need to try to find their weak point because every team has some,’ he added. ‘When you find it, you need to attack that point, so we just need to analyse and see what this point of Liverpool is.
‘They are a really strong team who are doing really well and maybe opening the Premier League up again but we need to believe that we have good potential to win this game because it’s one game. As everyone knows, in a final anything can happen; you just need to be well-prepared and try to win the game.
‘Everyone who plays against Chelsea knows our ability and that we can really cause trouble for any team in the world. We are aware they are in a good moment but they know that they cannot slip because we are here as well working hard and we deserve to be where we are.
‘For me personally, I keep visualising what the game is going to be like. I will try to bring this positive energy and keep on visualising what it will be like if we can win.’
Even with the positivity that the popular Jorginho is renowned for, his younger self growing up on the southern coast of Brazil could scarcely have imagined how his career would have turned out a decade-and-a-half on from his brave move to Europe.
A continental king, a champion of the world, a polished midfielder heralded with individual accolades, yet still hungry for more silverware, more glory and more partying on that Wembley pitch.