Pass-master Jorginho the perfect signing to usher in the Sarri era at Chelsea

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The new Blues boss has wasted no time in adding the midfielder to his squad, whom he worked with at Napoli

While taking an evening stroll through Naples' centro storico with his sister a couple of years ago, Jorginho came across a group of kids playing football on Via Duomo. 

The then-Napoli midfielder wanted to join in. The only trouble was that the kids didn't recognise him. They didn't believe him when he introduced himself as Jorginho.

His sister, who had started filming the scene on her phone, even had to plead with them to pass her brother the ball.

"Then, one of them asked me to show them a document," Jorginho explained. "But I even had do a few dribbles to convince the kids that it was really me!"

Given he is as humble as they come, Jorginho was amused by the whole affair. However, it was a nice example of the way in which he has often failed to get the recognition his unique talent deserves.

Despite holding both Brazilian and Italian citizenship, he was overlooked by both national teams for years. 

He was capped in a couple of friendlies by the Azzurri in spring 2016 but then left out of Antonio Conte's squad for that summer's European Championship in France. The ex-Chelsea manager felt Jorginho was unsuited to his style of football, too metronomic for his dynamic midfield. 

At the time, the player's agent, Joao Santos, hoped that things would be different under Conte's successor, Gian Piero Ventura, but in spite of his consistent excellence for Napoli, Jorginho didn't play a single group game during Italy's qualification campaign for the 2018 World Cup.

He was belatedly called up for the play-off clash with Sweden but, after being selected only for the second leg, was unable to save Ventura's sinking ship. 

By that point, though, Jorginho had established himself as the best regista in Serie A, thanks in no small part to erstwhile Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri, the new Chelsea boss, who wasted no time in luring the midfielder to Stamford Bridge.

Jorginho had been signed in 2014, from Verona, while Rafael Benitez was in charge at the San Paolo but he was never properly utilised by the Spaniard. He had enjoyed a promising start to life in Naples but he was played out of position - on the right-hand side of a 4-2-3-1 formation - and in a team playing a brand of football which did not suit him.

"In the second half of the season, he changed our approach to the game, trying long balls," he explained. "I suffered."

Sarri's arrival in the summer of 2015 changed everything. Jorginho became the fulcrum of the team and Napoli, spearheaded by Gonzalo Higuain, were transformed into one of the most effective and exciting footballing sides in Europe.

"I think that Sarri's formation and playing with a midfield three have been fundamental for me," Jorginho admitted.

"Then, there's his mentality and his style of play, which involves the ball always being on the ground, the continuous pressing forward, constantly imposing our game on the opposition.

"All of this enhanced my characteristics and it's evident that it suits me wonderfully." 

Jorginho Sarri PS

Indeed, Jorginho has been pivotal to the Partenopei 's progression over the past three years. 

Since Opta started gathering data for Serie A in 2004, Jorginho occupies all 10 of the top spots for most touches in any game. He also holds nine of the top 10 places for most successful passes played in any given match.

In short, everything Napoli did went through Jorginho, who formed a particularly productive understanding with left-back Faouzi Ghoulam, fellow midfielder Marek Hamsik and winger Lorenzo Insigne.

Their collective effort even had Pep Guardiola purring after Manchester City's two Champions League meetings with Napoli earlier this season.

"For 20 minutes, they massacred us," the Catalan conceded. "I wanted to close them down the left, where they had Ghoulam, Hamsik, Jorginho and Insigne, this incredible ability to make short passes. We wanted to pin them back but it was impossible."

Tellingly, Jorginho was flattered by such praise: "It's always nice to receive compliments, but it's spectacular when they come from a manager with that importance and winning past. He's a global icon. All I can do is to be grateful."

Jorginho Pep Guardiola PS

No wonder he wanted to sign him !

Guardiola is not the only famous figure to have been left frustrated by Jorginho's understated brilliance. Countless others have struggled to curb his control over a game. Indeed, Inter midfielder Radja Nainggolan rates the Italy international as his toughest opponent.

"He always plays in small spaces, with one-metre passes," the Belgian enthused. "It's difficult to keep up with him or to try to cut out his passes. 

"You get tired because he distributes the ball very quickly yet he remains practically still."

Unsurprisingly, Guardiola was eager for the player to join City, only to be beaten to the punch by the Blues .

As someone who grew up idolising Xavi and Andrea Pirlo, the 26-year-old was perfect for Guardiola's system, the ideal playmaker for a possession-obsessed side that relies on the rapid release of the ball in order to break sides down.

His character means, however, that he could be a success anywhere - and that includes Chelsea, where he will, of course, be reunited with Sarri.

He has admitted that he used to go to sleep every night thinking about winning the Scudetto for Napoli and its supporters, while after every victory he reminds himself what he had to go through to get to this point.

Jorginho Nainggolan PS

As child growing up in Imbituba, his family had to make do without hot water during the winters. When he left home at 15 to pursue a career in professional football in Italy with Verona, he struggled to get by.

"It was very difficult for me at the start. The first month, you don't think about it. You tell yourself, you're in Italy and that that's enough to be happy. 

"Then, the weeks pass and the difficulties arrive, because it's complicated living on €20 a week."

As a result, when he received his first weekly pay packet as a professional - €600 - he felt like "the richest man in the world".

"I always think about the difficulties I had to make sure I don't get too comfortable," he admitted. "I like to go to simple places to see people and not lose the real values of life. It's not just about money. 

"There are some key words that I have learned: the first ones are humility and determination; they are fundamental to reach certain levels.

"I want to continue like this, working hard without ever feeling satisfied."

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This combination of talent, humility and hunger should make him a sensational signing for Chelsea.

As the legendary Xabi Alonso once said of Jorginho, "He's not the most famous player, but he's perfect for his role at Napoli."

Now Sarri hopes he can be just as perfect in the Premier League.

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