Jorginho may be a familiar name for our supporters following his exploits in the Premier League and on the international scene, but how much do you really know about our new recruit?
The Italian midfielder swapped west London for N5 on deadline day after departing Chelsea to add a wealth of experience to Mikel Arteta’s team, having enjoyed a trophy-laden career to date.
As he has taken the number 20 shirt at Emirates Stadium, here are 20 things you may not have known about our latest acquisition:
Jorginho was actually born in Brazil, in the small town of Imbituba in the south of the country. He is of Italian descent through his paternal great-grandfather who is from Lusiana, Veneto. Reflecting on his decision, he said: “Choosing Italy was easy. Brazil never gave me the chance to fulfil my dream. Italy chose me to play for them, even though I was born in another country. When I needed help, Italy helped me.”
At the age of five, our new signing already had his sights set on his future life. When asked by his father what he wanted to do when he grew up, Jorginho replied:”‘I want to be a football player.” When his father explained it would be tough, would see him spend time away from the family and the potential of serious injury, he asked him again what his future held. The reply was again: “I want to be a football player.”
Jorginho puts his success mainly down to one person – his mother, an ex-amateur player herself who came from a footballing family “She was the one getting me to practice,” he has previously said. “My mum was the one grabbing the ball and telling me: ‘Come on! Let’s practice now. Let’s go. Right, right, left, left. I would kick the ball up and she would be like: ‘No, control it like this.’ And so, it went, many afternoons at the beach.”
As a teenager, Jorginho took his first steps in 11-a-side football and was quickly scouted at a tournament in Brazil. However, it would mean moving 120 miles away from his family aged 13 to join a soccer school in Guabiruba that specialised in setting up those who made the grade with moves to Italy. Two years later, Jorginho impressed and was on his way to Verona.
What’s in a name?
Jorge Luiz Frello Filho is now better known as Jorginho, but his childhood friends called him Haginho, after his idol, the legendary Romanian playmaker Gheorghe Hagi. His nickname amongst the Italian national team is ‘Il Professore’ (The Professor) or ‘Radio Jorginho’, in reference to his leadership and organisational qualities, as well as his continuous communication during games.
Under the radar
Jorginho underwent trials with three of Brazil’s biggest clubs – Sao Paulo, Palmeiras and Internacional but returned from them all having been unsuccessful. “I went back still wanting to be a football player, no matter how tough it was going to be,” he said. “It gave me the motivation to not give up, to believe in myself. My family believed in me, my friends believed in my potential, everyone believed in me.”
As well as Hagi, he also looked up to Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka, but during his time in Guabiruba he was convinced to ditch any dreams of following in their footsteps and playing further forward, and was converted into the holding midfielder we know today. After that, he began studying Andrea Pirlo and Xavi to help master the position.
Never give up
When he first moved to Italy, he was handed just 20 euros a week to live on by his agent, who Jorginho later found out was pocketing some of his cash. That almost caused him to leave his new world behind, but his mother urged him to continue, saying: “Don’t even think about it! You’re so close, you’ve been there for a few years, I won’t let you back in the house! You need to stay there and hang tough.”
When he began to break into Verona’s first-team, Jorginho met goalkeeper Rafael Pinheiro, who was also born in Brazil and the pair quickly formed a bond. It was Pinheiro who discovered Jorginho was being short-changed by his agent, and took him under his wing to provide him with food and clothes. Rafael retired last season, having been a teammate of Jakub Kiwior at Spezia.
While he learnt his craft at Verona, the youngster lived in a monastery. “There was a place for the monks and another for the scholars in the academy,’ he says. “Six of us in a little room for one and a half years. The people there treated us in an amazing way, always respectful. They really took care of us and the food was amazing. We had to be in the house by 11 o’clock.”
Gentleman of Verona
The first major moment of his career came when he helped Verona reach Serie A for the first time in 11 years in 2014. He then helped them into the top four of the division by netting seven goals in 18 games before Rafael Benitez signed him for Napoli in the January transfer window. In fact, current owner Maurizio Setti has since revealed he purchased the club in 2012 after realising Jorginho’s talent.
Happy with Sarri
No coach has selected Jorginho more times in his career than the 162 times Maurizio Sarri has, who helped develop him into a star in Serie A during their time together at Napoli. On the day Sarri was appointed as Chelsea manager in the summer of 2018, Jorginho also signed for the club as the two continued their bond in England.
Jorginho has been a regular taker of spot-kicks throughout his career, and has netted 41 out of 48 so far, with 19 coming from 22 attempts in the Premier League – no player has taken more in the division in that time. He finished as the Blues’ top league scorer in the 2019/20 season with seven goals – all from the spot – with his unusual technique something he admitted he picked up during training sessions at Napoli.
Touch of class
In just his third game in the division, Jorginho equalled a Premier League record in August 2018 when he touched the ball 186 times in a game against Newcastle United, and surpassed that four weeks later by recording 191 against West Ham United. While that record is now held by Manchester City’s Rodri (195 v West Ham in February 2020), our new signing appears three times in the top seven of that particular list.
After clinching Euro 2020, Jorginho joined an elite list of players to have won both the European Cup/Champions League and the European Championships in the same year. The first was Luis Suarez in 1964 who played for Inter Milan and Spain, while in 1988 Hans van Breukelen, Ronald Koeman, Berry van Aerle and Gerald Vanenburg did the double with PSV Eindhoven and the Netherlands.
In more recent times, Chelsea duo Fernando Torres and Juan Mata repeated the feat with Spain, while Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe had been the last to do so when Real Madrid and Portugal tasted glory.
Year to remember
After winning both the Champions League and the re-arranged Euro 2020 during the 2020/21 campaign, Jorginho was awarded UEFA’s Player of the Year award. After tallying the votes from national team coaches, managers involved in European competitions and a jury of journalists, the Italian international edged out Kevin de Bruyne and N’Golo Kante to pick up the prestigious prize.
Going against the Gunners
The Italian has twice netted against us for the Blues, at home and away during the 2019/20 campaign. He tapped home late on during a 2-1 success for Chelsea at the Emirates at December 2019, before converting from 12 yards during a chaotic 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge the following month.
That was one of just four triumphs at our expense during 10 appearances with the Blues, including victory in the 2018/19 Europa League final in Baku, but losing the FA Cup final 12 months later.
Top of the list
No Italian midfielder has scored more goals in the Premier League than Jorginho’s 21 strikes. His nearest rival is Roberto di Matteo who got 15 for Chelsea, while only strikers Paulo di Canio, Gianfranco Zola, Benito Carbone, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Graziano Pelle have scored more than his current haul.
In September 2021, he captained Italy for the first time on the occasion of his 38th cap in a World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, in a game that brought a 5-0 win for Jorginho’s side. That was the first time the Azzurri had been skippered by a non-native Italian since 1960, when Argentinan-born Miguel Angel Montuori donned the armband.
Jorginho will be just the third Italian to feature for us in competitive action. Arturo Lupoli was the first, scoring three goals in nine appearances between 2004 and 2006, while goalkeeper Vito Mannone played 23 times between 2009 and 2012.