Not everybody who likes Puccini also appreciates Wagner. Either way, the music still takes form. In Naples, the masses would tell you tales of the beautiful, rhythmic and delicate touches that Jorginho used to distribute. Since he has gone, ask any Neapolitan and they will poetically remember a master craftsman, a conductor to an orchestra they once adored.
Now ask the English, a nation besotted by Jurgen Klopp and his Wagnerian football. Fast, frantic, aggressive, what place has Jorginho in this? None it seems, and last season most lovers of the adopted Brazilian simply thought, thank God Andrea Pirlo never went to England. But then, out of nowhere, came Frank Lampard.
Maurizio Sarri owes much to Jorginho. Everything went through him. Yes, we talk of Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens in ‘The Trident’, but it would not have existed if it wasn’t for him. To answer the cries from the gantry, ‘What of Marek Hamsik?’ I would request you to look back as he was (when in form) more of an offensive player and wasn’t prevalent in the build-up.
It was the former Hellas Verona man who was the metronome, he actually was that good. We talk today of Sandro Tonali and many others, but Jorginho genuinely did it week in, week out, and when he left Italy for Chelsea, he was still underrated. His fluency, his one and two touch passing in the middle of the field would give you so much, although the FIFA 19 generation would be left confused by his highlights reel.
This is not the place for statistics. Why bore you with a paragraph of percentages? If you are interested, go and look at Jorginho’s stats at Napoli, they are off the charts. He was deemed so important by Sarri that when the chain-smoking philosopher went to London, he had only one man in mind to make his orchestra work.
After his first season in England, Jorginho had been vilified. He was not the conductor everyone loved in Italy. His version of music was simply not appreciated. Like a Viennese modernist, he resembled Gustav Mahler, his different style frowned on. Mahler once said: “From the moment I crossed the threshold of the Olmütz Theatre I felt like one awaiting the wrath of God." Switch Olmütz to Stamford Bridge and you will understand the point.
Heavy pressing and an ‘up and at them’ mentality, merged with TV pundits who enjoy the words ‘in and around’ and ‘desire’ didn’t help Jorginho. To many in the island nation, he was branded a ‘side-ways passer’ and not a holding midfielder. He replaced N’Golo Kante in that position, a man much more in tune with Northern Europe, because he ran a lot and got stuck in.
Like any good modernist conductor, Jorginho felt and yet ignored the criticism. Ironically, he did the most archetypally English thing he could do and smiled, got his head down and carried on. He never once resorted to changing his style, nor did he come out in the press and justify it. Instead he played week after week and persisted. It was the arrival of a new coach, however, that eventually saw him get recognition.
Frank Lampard wasn’t a gamble. With a transfer ban, Jody Morris and the former Chelsea legend were a shrewd choice. A do or die situation was offered and they duly took it. What has happened since has been impressive, but not remarkable. In modern football, especially in Italy and England, youth teams can be overlooked, but what Lampard has proven is that the heavy investment in youth bears fruit. It’s not rocket science, they are not Ajax, but it still needed bringing to attention.
Jorginho has taken on a different status as a senior player. Lampard’s trust (like Sarri’s) is immoveable, he understands the music his Italian midfielder plays, he realises how few possess this talent. Now the Chelsea fans sing his name, as eventually they too came to appreciate his value. Chelsea under Lampard play a quick and exciting game, ironically more like Sarri that when Sarri was here.
In music and in football, what is modern becomes the norm in an instant. This is the story of Jorginho. It was not for the midfielder to change to appease his new audience. It was instead necessary for his audience to become educated over time. The problem is, this doesn’t happen enough in modern football (or in life). Perhaps the lesson simply is, when one has a talent, treasure it, believe in it, and it will bear fruit.