TO MOST, the sandy beaches and blue waters of Imbituba in southern Brazil offer a peaceful paradise – but for Chelsea new boy Jorginho they are the roots of his footballing education.
Maurizio Sarri’s first signing at Stamford Bridge in 2018 may have been developed at Napoli, yet the person who truly moulded the midfielder also gave him life.
“My mother played football so I learned a lot from her,” Jorginho, who cost Chelsea £58million, said in 2013.
“She still plays today and understands a lot. She would take me to the beach with a ball and I would spend the whole afternoon doing technical work in the sand.”
Jorginho’s mother Maria Tereza Freitas wanted her son to be prepared for anything and everything in the game. She wanted him to be one step ahead of his opposition.
“I was raised to face problems,” he said — and there were plenty of them on his path to the Premier League.
But despite that preparation, Jorginho cannot have forecast his parents’ separation at the age of six. From then on, Maria was both provider and trainer.
She would spend most of her day working as a cleaner to put food on the table and earn enough money to buy her son boots and a ball as he joined the local football team.
Jorginho represented Bruscão —who are now looking to claim 0.9 per cent of the sale to Chelsea — but his education came from his mother.
The bond between them was so strong that the memory of having to move 180 kilometres away from her and home at the age of 13 still upsets him today.
"If I talk about it, I feel a lump in my throat," Jorginho, 29, said.
Along with 50 other boys, the youngster was selected as part of a project formed by Italian businessmen in Guabiruba to create the next wave of brilliant Brazilians.
Yet it is far from the state-of-the-art facilities of Chelsea’s academy in Cobham.
Jorginho remembers the ice-cold baths. He can't forget the windowless digs, nor the monotonous meals that rarely changed.
But it was worth it in the end.
After two years, he was one of a select few chosen to join Verona, then in the second tier of Italian football.
Jorginho’s first deal at the club was far from lucrative, though. While the agent took £27,000 from the transaction, the emerging midfielder had just £18-a-week to live on.
A large chunk of that went on keeping in touch with his mum.
“I could not do anything,” he said. “I used five euros for mobile credit, bought hygiene products, which was 15 euros, and the rest was used online to talk to my family.
“It was like that for a year-and-a-half.
“In the second year, I trained with the professionals and when I met the Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael Pinheiro, who is almost a brother to me, I told my story and he did not believe it.
“From there, he did not let me miss anything.”
After a successful loan spell with Serie D side Sambonifacese, Jorginho returned to Verona and excelled, making his first-team debut as an 18-year-old in September 2011.
He was a key figure in their promotion-winning side in 2013 and earned a move to Italian giants Napoli six months later.
During his time at the Stadio San Paolo, Jorginho learned about Chelsea after rooming with Nathaniel Chalobah, the former Blues midfielder on loan to Napoli in 2015.
“I've seen him in training and he plays one-touch and two-touches the whole session,” Chalobah told the podcast Golazzo: The Totally Italian Football Show earlier this year.
“I've never seen anything like it and I'm staring at him, thinking: ‘Oh my God, what a player!’ And nobody knew of him. Now, when I see rave reviews about him, I knew this was coming.”
Chalobah does have a word of warning to anyone at Chelsea who rooms with Jorginho, though: Jorginho is a video game fanatic.
“He was on Battlefield every night – it was non-stop,” the Watford midfielder said.
“I had to try and get him off it when I wanted to go to sleep. But for him that was just his pre-match ritual.”
Jorginho had an ally in Sarri at Stamford Bridge, with whom he worked for three years in Naples before he was given his marching orders.
The Italian coach knew his qualities well.
“Jorginho is not a physical player, he is a technical player,” Sarri said. “The most important quality is that he is very quick in the mind.”
Sarri, Chelsea and Jorginho himself have his mother to thank for that. The beaches of Imbituba will always be a classroom to them.
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