Summer signing Kalidou Koulibaly joined Jorginho to discuss how happy they are to have been reunited in London after many years as friends and team-mates at Napoli, as well as explaining the big part that bond played in Koulibaly’s decision to join Chelsea.
The duo were putting the questions to each other ahead of the start of our 2022/23 Champions League campaign away at Dinamo Zagreb, with Jorginho getting the ball rolling by asking Koulibaly about the reasons behind him choosing to move to Stamford Bridge for this season.
‘It was you! You’ve been pestering me since June, or maybe March, spamming me with texts, begging me to join the club. You helped make it happen,’ responded Koulibaly, who also gave some credit to his international team-mate with Senegal, Edouard Mendy.
‘I’ve had many conversations with you and Edou and you both had great things to say about the team, the club and its supporters. I don’t know if you remember, before you left Napoli I promised we’d play together again someday.
‘So that was definitely one of the season why I made this decision. Knowing I would get to reunite with my brothers and have another chance to play, train and laugh together again definitely helped.
‘Plus, when I came to Chelsea in June, in my heart I had already decided I wanted to join. I had already been keeping up to date with the team, especially you and Edou, and when I saw you guys winning the Champions League, I felt I was joining the right team at the right moment. So, when I landed in London to join you and the rest of the team, I knew I was doing the right thing.’
After admitting to getting a bit emotional and teary-eyed by Koulibaly’s response, Jorginho jokingly suggested it shows how much his friend must have missed him after he left Napoli for Chelsea in 2018, a suggestion the defender makes no attempt to deny.
‘To be honest, when you left I missed you a lot because we were always together, our families were always together. At the beginning it did hurt a bit when I went into the changing room and you weren’t there, but there was someone else in your place. Luckily we kept in touch on a regular basis. We used to be inseparable and I missed you a lot.’
For his part, Koulibaly pointed out how impressed he has been with the way Jorginho has grown in maturity, as a player and a person, during their four years apart, especially how he proved those who doubted him wrong by showing he was his own man and not just a disciple of the manger who brought him from Napoli to Chelsea, Maurizio Sarri.
‘I remember when you arrived everyone was saying you were here thanks to Sarri, but today I don’t see a boy, I see a man, a person who has grown a lot technically and has built himself up from nothing. I am so proud of you when I think of the difference between the boy who left Napoli and the player you are today.
‘People who said you were only here thanks to Sarri didn’t understand anything and today you’ve earned your respect and that makes me proud of you.’
Jorginho admitted it was a difficult period in his career, but he always knew his actions and performances would speak for themselves.
‘It wasn’t easy. The first year we were winning and everything looked good, but then so many things happened. I had to put in a lot of work to gain everyone’s respect.
‘After those rumours started, of course, I was a little bothered, but I always try to look on the bright side and change people’s perception of me. So I said to myself, these people are wrong about me and it’s not fair. Both in football and in life it’s all about the facts, not the words. You can demonstrate that on the pitch and through your results, that’s what I’ve always tried to do.
‘Since I’ve arrived, well, you’ve seen. It made me laugh that when you arrived you said “you haven’t changed at all”!’
Jorginho also revealed he has been showing Koulibaly the ropes in London so he can follow in his footsteps, with the Senegalese defender even moving into his team-mates’ former house.
He also explained how spending time with the staff and long-serving players at our Cobham training ground helped him improve his language skills, after Koulibaly expressed shock at how much better Jorginho’s English has gotten.
‘In the beginning, I wanted to work mainly with English physiotherapists so I had the opportunity to start talking and understanding as much as I could. I used to talk to the kit men, to the chef. So thanks to that I started understanding much more.
‘There was a guy here, Lucas Piazon, who had been here for many years. He’s Brazilian but could already speak English perfectly, so I asked him loads of questions and he taught me a lot.
‘So everything started from there – almost like a joke, but not really because I enjoy it – trying to learn things using an English accent, like I did in the Neapolitan dialect, like “com’ va guaglio?” or “how’s it going mate?”.
‘So by playing around and talking to the guys I tried my best to learn English, hopefully picking up the right accent, but also having fun with it.’
With the way Jorginho has embraced life in London and at Chelsea over the last four years, it seems Koulibaly couldn’t have a better friend and team-mate to guide him through his first season in English football.