As he prepares for a significant milestone in Chelsea’s Champions League clash with Juventus on Wednesday, Italy midfielder Jorginho can reflect on the golden year that silenced his critics.
Underappreciated in England until the last few months, Jorginho has emerged as a key player for Chelsea and Italy after winning the Champions League and Euro 2020 in the space of just a few weeks.
The 29-year-old was recently named the Uefa Men’s Player of the Year for 2020/21 and has been mentioned as a leading candidate for the prestigious Ballon d’Or award.
“All those who didn’t believe in me, who criticised me, I have to thank them too. They gave me even more encouragement. They motivated me to work harder and harder to prove they were wrong,” Jorginho told Uefa.com.
“Everything that happened was thanks to the people that stood by me – family, friends, my agent, my teammates, coaches, physios, kitmen.”
Jorginho was such a scapegoat for the failed Maurizio Sarri reign that for him to be at Chelsea long enough to reach 150 appearances seemed unlikely just 18 months ago.
In his maiden campaign with the Blues, he was relentlessly targeted by supporters frustrated with the team’s unimaginative performances under Sarri.
Sarri had paid £50 million ($68 million) to bring the Italy midfielder with him from Napoli amid intense interest from Manchester City.
The pair were unveiled on the same day at Stamford Bridge in 2018, but there was no honeymoon period for either man in west London.
‘Sarri-ball’ – the manager’s possession-based philosophy – failed to translate from Serie A to the more frenetic environment of the Premier League.
And Jorginho’s habit of passing sideways or backwards to ensure Chelsea kept the ball infuriated fans who demanded a more forward-thinking approach.