Ahead of our match against Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday night, Chelsea’s first match of this season’s Champions League campaign, there was administrative business to take care of in the form of some UEFA awards, the recipients of which were announced a few weeks ago. UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin was on hand to deliver the shiny baubles himself to Édouard Mendy (Goalkeeper of the Year), Thomas Tuchel (Coach of the Year), N’Golo Kanté (Midfielder of the Year), and last and certainly not least, Jorginho (Player of the Year).
(NB. As to how Jorginho could win the Player of the Year but not the Midfielder of the Year award comes down to the latter being a “club” competition award, while the former also taking the Euros and national team performances into voting consideration.)
The award, which many see as a potential precursor to a serious run at the Ballon d’Or later this year, was the cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake that Jorginho got to have, and then got to eat, too. It’s truly been the The Summer of Jorge, Triple European Champion, and playing a key role throughout (Champions League, Super Cup, Euros, not in that order).
Needless to say, the oft-maligned midfielder (rightly or wrongly) is immensely proud of his individual recognition.
“The only thing I can say is that I’m proud. Everything I do is to make my family and my friends proud of me, so I’m really, really happy and I think I need to say thank you to everyone who was involved somehow helping me to achieve this because just me, that wouldn’t be possible. So I’m really grateful to everyone and it’s a thank you for them, you know.”
As inspiring as Jorginho’s journey may be, and as amusing it may be to see him poke fun at his critics (of which there were quite a lot, not too long ago), perhaps the most curious thing about all this is that he hasn’t really changed his style or his game since he first came into our lives in 2018.
Just goes to show that getting the best out of players is not always a simple or straightforward task. Jorginho made it his mission to extract himself from Maurizio Sarri’s shadow (and vicarious criticism), making strong inroads in that regard under Frank Lampard and completing the task under Thomas Tuchel and Roberto Mancini (with Italy). He has his strengths and he has his weaknesses, like any player; the key is to put him into situations that maximize the former and minimize the latter. That may sound simple, but doing so while also creating a winning team makes it exponentially harder.
It’s what Tuchel’s done, earning praise from the Vice-captain.
“He works hard, he wants the best from us, so he tries to give his best as well to help everyone because he knows what we can give and that’s what he demands. [He] is just focussed and wants to win the games and wants the best from us.”
-Jorginho; source: Football.London
Jorginho will turn 30 before the end of the year, and he won’t be at Chelsea forever with a return to Italy surely beckoning in the not so distance future. Until then, we can hope that he and the team can keep this excellent run of results and trophies going.