Jorge Luiz Frello Filho, known as Jorginho, is first and foremost a paradox on legs. A creative environment that does not make assists. A specialist in penalties who hardly ever scores in the game. An individuality that only exists through the collective. The third thief of the last Golden Ball says it himself: his 2021 financial year escapes reason. “It’s absolutely surreal. I often use this adjective, « surreal », because what is happening to me is so big that I can hardly believe it. I hadn’t even dared to dream of it. That all these successes fall on me after all that I have lived, I do not have the words to describe it, to justify it. » In recent months, the regista of the Nazionale unanimously. The guy will perhaps see a little personal revenge: the year which ends has crowned the victory of his football, whose rhythm, so different, has long been celebrated as much as decried.
“We all remember what people used to say when I started at Chelsea, right? That I was too slow. Weak. That I was Sarri’s son. It pissed me off! » Jorginho, a little angry anyway
Rhythm and Blues
To understand where exactly the Italian comes from, we must look at these words of Rio Ferdinand on English TV at the end of January 2019. While Chelsea have just been planted 2-0 by Arsenal in the Premier League, the legend of Manchester United is shooting at all costs the one he considers to be the first responsible for the setback of Blues : Jorginho. « He’s supposed to set the pace for the games … When you give him the ball in the last 30 yards he’s very good, ok. » This season, he has made around 2,000 assists. But how many assists has he made? Any. Besides, he doesn’t run a lot. So he doesn’t bring anything defensively, like on the other side of the pitch. » The Englishman then frankly does not preach in the desert: recruited in the summer of 2018 by Maurizio Sarri, the former Neapolitan is regularly accused of being the most overpriced player in the Premier League.
His tireless passing game and clean style were not to the liking of fans of the Blues, who see him as the favorite of the current coach. “We all remember what people used to say when I started at Chelsea, right? wrote the player at the beginning of September in the Players’ Tribune. That I was too slow. Weak. That I was Sarri’s son. It pissed me off … But look, they underestimated me. You see, I’ve had a rocky start in every club I’ve played with. Everytime. » True. The Italian-Brazilian has always asked for time. Time to be understood. Sarri, who had left Chelsea in the summer of 2019, tries to explain the game of his former protégé: “He’s a refined player. That’s why not everyone can immediately appreciate it. » How to understand Jorginho, then? First by looking at the origin of things, rather than their outcome. Behind a luminous opening, it is often the shadow of the transalpine environment that we can detect. « I’m always looking for the pass that will open the lines of the opponent, explains the main interested party. My passes may seem trivial, but it’s often the pass that comes after mine that brings a scoring opportunity. »
« Happy Meals were for rich kids »
Jorginho first refined his passes barefoot on the beaches of Imbituba. It is in this city in southern Brazil, a former favorite spot for whale hunters auriverde, that his mother made him repeat his first scales on the fine sand. “When I was five, my mom used to play ball with me on the beach near our house. She’s not one of those moms who don’t understand football. No, sir … She came from a family of footballers and she still plays today. We were just having fun, but if I made a mistake she would say: « No, don’t set foot that way. Do it like that. » “Teenager, Jorginho will then multiply the tests in professional clubs. Without success. “I did three tests, at São Paulo FC, at Palmeiras and at Inter (Porto Alegre), but each time, I failed. »
“He was almost an infiltrator, he couldn’t live in a boarding school with his companions. So I entrusted him to a community of priests, who offered him board and lodging. » Riccardo Prisciantelli, ex-sports director of Hellas Verona
He will finally be spotted by a recruiter from Hellas Verona, who repatriates him to Italy at the age of 15, to make him integrate the training center of the club in the city of Romeo and Juliet. Whoever then only benefits from a student visa – which prevents him from playing official matches – must then become rikiki. To give him a chance, the sporting director of Hellas, Riccardo Prisciantelli, does not hesitate to cheat: “It took a long time before we could sign him at the club. He was almost an infiltrator, he couldn’t live in boarding school with his companions. So I entrusted him to a community of priests, who offered him board and lodging. » Abused by his agent at the time, the ragazzo survives on 20 euros per week. “I always spent them the same way: five euros to phone my family in Brazil, a few euros more for shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste … Sometimes, when I really wanted to treat myself, I would go on the main square in Verona and I was buying a milkshake at McDonald’s. Only that. Happy Meals were for rich kids. Then I would sit on a staircase in the corner of the square and watch. I just watched the birds and the tourists and let my thoughts wander. » Rude, but the skinny kid’s talent is too great to be overlooked: his transalpine ancestry will finally allow him to be naturalized Italian and to join the Hellas A team in 2011.
Flaws and genius
The result will be glorious, but never rectilinear: transferred to Napoli in 2014, the player does not have the favors of Rafael Benítez, before exploding in 2015 under the command of Sarri. At Chelsea, it will take him more than a season to convince. In Nazionale, he will be regularly snubbed by Antonio Conte and Giampiero Ventura, the latter claiming outright « To use a tactic incompatible with the characteristics of Jorginho » . In fact, the genius of the Italian is not autonomous. Even less infallible. In the final of the last Euro, this penalty specialist missed his decisive shot on goal against Pickford, even if the Azzurri will have finally won. Sarri, the midfielder’s first transfixed lover, outlined his limits as follows: “He needs the movement without the ball from his teammates because he’s used to playing with one touch. It is very difficult for him to play without the movement of other players. »
Roberto Mancini, who made the guy the keystone of his midfielder, sees the former Neapolitan « A player with a single vocation: to create the game » . Far from the monstrous statistics and YouTube actions of Lewandowski, Haaland, Salah and Mbappé, the Italian remains a player on a human scale, who only exists by and for the collective. Problem ? No. If the machine works, no one knows how to turn it better than he. « It’s true that people don’t see me too much … I’m not like N’Golo (Kanté) running around for 90 minutes. Me, I am more the one who will fluidify the whole, put oil in the engine. It is all subtle, and I quite understand that I am less visible than others. » What if it was just fine like that? It is by walking in the shade that he has always been able to hide his elegant passes. Or come back to Verona incognito this summer, to fully savor the progress made: “I haven’t been there for a very long time. First, I went to the main square. I went to McDonald’s and had a milkshake. Then I sat down on the stairs in the corner, where I had spent so many afternoons as a teenager. And I just … watched. »
By Adrien Candau
All words from Players’s Tribune, of France Football, of the Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere del Veneto.