TO MOST, the sandy beaches and blue waters of Imbituba in southern Brazil offer a peaceful paradise – but for the midfield maestro Jorginho they are the roots of his footballing education.
The Chelsea star was instrumental in helping Italy win the Euros, while his rejuvenation under Thomas Tuchel led the Blues to a famous Champions League win over Premier League rivals Manchester City.
So, it's with no surprise that the incredible playmaker is the favourite to land the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award ahead of team-mate N'Golo Kante and Belgium ace Kevin de Bruyne.
But, it's actually is mum who Jorginho credits for his amazing rise.
"My mother played football so I learned a lot from her,” Jorginho revealed 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 stardom.
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, while taking him to play for his local team Bruscão.
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, now 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, who managed to convince him to continue his football education after he threatened to quit.
At first, the young boy struggled to fit in to his new surroundings. He couldn't live in a boarding school with his other team-mates.
Instead, Riccardo Prisciantelli, the former chief executive of Hellas Verona, gave Jorginho to a trusted priest and he lived in a convent.
“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.”
From his early days at Verona, Jorginho earned himself the nickname 'The Wolf of the Future'.
Prisciantelli told the MailOnline: "Everyone recognises the determination of a lion, to me he is a wolf.
"He works three times as hard on the pitch and harder than anyone else.
"Every night tears fell in that dark and sad room (with the priest). But I know that he never gave up.
"I bought some equipment to set up a small gym at the sports centre. He would arrive at dawn and keep going until we allowed him to leave."
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.
For three years, Jorginho worked under former Blues boss Maurizio Sarri in Naples – and they were briefly reunited in West London.
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 left the club in 2019, and Jorginho could have been forgiven for thinking his time in West London might've been up.
Worse still, with new boss Frank Lampard at the helm, he found himself frozen out of the first team.
For Lampard he was just a bit-part player, and when the club legend was sacked in 2021 his former player stuck the boot in.
"Look, I’ll be really sincere here on Lampard,’ Jorginho told ESPN Brasil.
"I believe, given he was a legend at the club, he skipped some steps necessary for learning before moving to a big club.
"He came to a club where he is a legend, without having experience at other clubs. I think he came too soon, skipped a few steps ahead and wasn’t ready for a job at this level, to be honest."
In came no-nonsense Thomas Tuchel, who restored Jorginho to his starting line-up understanding his qualities on the pitch and helped him rediscover his form at the tail-end of last season.
It not only helped the Blues lift their second Champions League title, but also benefited Italy at Euro 2020 who overcame England in a tense final in a penalty shootout – with Jorginho one of the stars of the show throughout the tournament.
Jorginho, himself, has his mother to thank for his success. The beaches of Imbituba will always be a classroom to them. But now, you can say, Stamford Bridge is certainly his stage.
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