Chelsea’s Jorginho is currently the Premier League’s most seductive talent

Words By Seb Stafford-Bloor Illustration by Philippe Fenner
October 9, 2018

Clearly, in the weeks and months ahead, Jorginho will further adjust to his new Premier League surroundings and become the kind of influence on Chelsea that he often was in Naples. Even prior to that acclimatisation occuring though, the Italian is already a mesmerising presence at the base of Maurizio Sarri’s midfield.

Not, of course, in the pyrotechnic sense. Jorginho is not a highlight reel player and much of what he does escapes the Sky or BT cameras too. In fact, he’s really very sensory – that is to say, one of those players who is definitely better-watched live.

It always sounds snobbish to say that, as if you’re sneering at supporters who aren’t able to regularly watch their teams. That’s not the intention. Instead, it’s to highlight just how distorting a television’s cameras lens is and how narrow it can often be. An unavoidable truth, unfortunately, is that if you can’t see the whole pitch and all twenty-two players, then you are inevitably missing something.

In that regard, Jorginho reminds me of Michael Carrick. Or, at least, my perception of Michael Carrick before and after I’d watched him live. On television, Carrick was unspectacular and, to the day he retired, invited questions about what it was that he actually did. In real life, though, he was majestic. Long before he became a European Cup winner with Manchester United, he was the centrepoint of a moderately capable Tottenham side. And even within that team and its many imperfections, he was glorious. He always had such time on the ball; he received and gave passes with such composure and style.

One of the oddities of being inside a stadium is that you appreciate that professional footballers kick the ball in a different way to you or I. The very best – the neatest, most blessed ball-players – don’t so much kick the ball as they do caress it. They rarely play with any force, they never kick through the ball with any anger. Instead, their games consist almost solely of immaculate cushioning touches, pushed passes and perfect foresight.

Jorginho is one of those. His most relevant attributes are related to what he enables Chelsea to do: how many opposition players he’s able to marginalise, how accurate he is, and how much defensive security he’s able to provide. The headline statistics at the moment, of course, are that he will soon reach 1000 successful passes for the season and that, on a per game average, he is completing 14 more than any other player in the Premier League.

That’s interesting enough, but also strangely beside the point. Football is a first-hand experience and despite advancing intellectualism, there is still a great and simple pleasure to be had in just watching mastery of its basics. Jorginho satisfies that desire totally. Forget what he is on the pitch to literally achieve and focus instead on the shine he brings to a game’s banal moments. The disguise within his distribution and how it allows him to knife balls beyond opponents who haven’t the time to even consider an interception. The artful spin he applies to the ball to make it drop perfectly into a teammate’s stride. The way each of those little moments has a purpose within the greater context, be it the creation of space or the examination of a particular weakness.

To be in the stadium while he plays is also to see his authority. His technique is enthralling enough, but it’s accompanied by an array of points, gestures and directions which frame the aesthetic. The sensation is of player in perfect control of both the ball and the game itself; a steady pulse of influence with regular flecks of class. It’s as seductive as football gets.

Chelsea Jorginho Maurizio Sarri
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