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Euro 2020 win with Italy could make Jorginho unlikely Ballon d’Or contender

The midfielder has been outstanding at Euro 2020, converting a penalty in ice-cold fashion to eliminate Spain and earn Italy a place in the final

Misunderstood, criticised, underappreciated. All those words could apply to Jorginho since his arrival to English football in 2018. This season, however, he has proven the doubters wrong.

Having won the Champions League, playing a key role for Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel, he is bidding to complete a club and international double by winning the European Championship with Italy at Wembley on Sunday.

And should the Azzurri overcome England, it could put Jorginho ahead of fellow Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante in the conversation over the Ballon d’Or.

Sometimes, it’s easy to overlook Jorginho. The 29-year-old is neither tall nor quick and he rarely provides match-winning goals or assists. In that regard, his weaknesses are obvious.

But many Italians – including fellow international and ex-Napoli team-mate Lorenzo Insigne – have tipped the judging panel to consider his merits.

“I’m not the one deciding if he deserves the Ballon d’Or, but I hope he’ll be shortlisted,” Insigne told reporters this week. “He deserves it, he is a great player.

“I call him ‘The Professor’ and we are all happy to play with him.”

He is a wonderful team player, who communicates well on the pitch. He is someone who shows strong leadership qualities behind the scenes and sets the tempo with a tidy short passing game.

Although unspectacular, Jorginho can dominate a game in the right system while stifling the opponents’ ability to counterattack through his expert reading of the play. Managers also know that he doesn’t often get injured and can rely on him when needed.

“He understands his role,” former Chelsea forward Mark Hughes told Goal. “When he is at the bottom of midfield, he can get on the ball.

“He is a good ‘continuity player’, as we call them, as he can progress the ball at a good level and tempo, he has good angles to his passing which can release players between the lines.

“He understands the game of football. You find that Italian players are often very clever and astute tactically. They know what’s required from different systems and they can execute what the manager wants.

“He is like that because he takes information on, communicates it to his team-mates which affects the games.”

It’s incredible to think that the Chelsea man was a bit-part player for the national team until Roberto Mancini took over in 2018.

He was largely overlooked by Antonio Conte – despite consistent club form with Napoli – and ill-suited to the style of play under Mancini’s predecessor Gian Piero Ventura.

 

At one stage, it even looked like he would throw his international lot back in with Brazil – the land of his birth – such were his lack of opportunities.

But now he’s in with a shout of international glory to go alongside his Champions League medal and further opportunities to impress for individual honours too.

What is going against him, however, is that the type of player that usually attracts the votes is usually one that’s easier on the eye. It puts Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku as more likely winners.

Furthermore, if winning both European honours is a metric for handing out the awards, then England’s Mason Mount should also be in the discussion having achieved just as much as Jorginho.

Mount offers more goals and assists than Jorginho from open play but the man signed for Chelsea for up to £57 million ($79m) by Maurizo Sarri boasts a superpower for scoring penalties, which, ultimately, is what saw his country overcome Spain in a tense semi-final shootout.

“I don’t think about it,” Jorginho told reporters last week when asked about his unlikely Ballon d’Or shot. “Everything that is happening is the consequence of hard work.

“My priority is the group and celebrating together with my team-mates and friends. This is more beautiful than celebrating alone.”

He has overcome significant difficulties to get to the top of the game – from being lied to in his youth career, which led to financial trouble, to winning over the boo-boys at Stamford Bridge.

Jorginho is rightly regarded by his team-mates as a superstar and, perhaps, that is all the recognition he needs.