UEFA Euro 2020

Roberto Mancini's reliance on Jorginho proves he's key to Italy success

Max Cooper
Jorginho is the most crucial figure in this Italian midfield
Jorginho is the most crucial figure in this Italian midfield / Alberto Lingria - Pool/Getty Images
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Italy's nervy 2-1 victory over Austria on Saturday proved what many people already knew, and what even more refuse to believe: Jorginho is Gli Azzurri's most important midfielder.

Now, before Twitter implodes in rage and laughter, let's clear this one up. Jorginho is not Italy's best midfielder, but among the current crop of players at Roberto Mancini's disposal, he is the most irreplaceable.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the Italian coach's game-changing substitutions in the 67th minute. In response to a struggling midfield trio of the Chelsea man, Serie A winner Nicolo Barella and elite Paris Saint-Germain star Marco Verratti, Mancini brought on Matteo Pessina and Manuel Locatelli.

The men who made way? Verratti and Barella. There were external factors for this decision, of course; Barella was already sitting on a yellow card, and was becoming increasingly irate with referee Anthony Taylor. He was a ticking time bomb.

And Verratti was playing only his second game since returning from injury, meaning he was lacking in some much-needed match fitness for such an intense battle. Now, one could easily argue that these circumstances were the primary reason the pair were hooked, and the sole reason behind Jorginho's extended stay on the field.

In fact, it only adds to the case that the Chelsea metronome is an immovable character at the base of that midfield. In the heat of the battle, and with the stakes as high as they've been for Mancini as Italy boss, he couldn't trust his best box-to-box midfielder not to end up getting sent off for his petulance and bubbling emotions.

And while Verratti is possibly the most technically gifted midfielder in the side, he is also the most injury-prone. Compare that to Jorginho then, who was included in each and every Premier League matchday squad throughout the 2020/21 campaign.

That big game knowhow (which also came in for good use during Chelsea's 1-0 victory over Manchester City in the Champions League final), combined with his incredible fitness levels, makes him invaluable to Mancini and Italy.

And that's without considering what he brings to the side on the pitch.

Jorginho thrives in front of Italy's backline, dropping in to collect the ball, before offering it out and making himself available for the return. While this metronomic style has failed to live up to expectations in England, Serie A viewers are all too aware of just how effective he can be.

He was the key to Napoli's dynamic build-up play during their most entertaining years under Maurizio Sarri, and the coach decided he couldn't replicate his Sarrismo without the 29-year-old, bringing him to Stamford Bridge in 2018.

The good news for Jorginho, is that international football is not played at the frenetic and chaotic pace of the Premier League, allowing him more time on the ball, and often handing him a split second more to read an opponent's next move and cut the passing lanes.

He topped the charts against Austria in the Euro 2020 round of 16, completing 50 of his 51 attempted first-half passes, and producing the most interceptions in that 45 minutes. For his nation, no one has completed more passes, interceptions and tackles. He's a colossus in the midfield.

So, there is no one more reliable, effective, impressive or valuable to this Italy side.

His teammates know it, too. Attacking talisman Lorenzo Insigne even tipped the maestro to be shortlisted for the Ballon d'Or, saying he 'deserves' it.

“I’m not the one deciding if he deserves the Ballon d’Or, but I hope he’ll be shortlisted, he deserves so, he is a great player. I call him the professor and we are all happy to play with him," his former Napoli teammate said.

Yet if you believed everything you read on the internet, you'd think Jorginho is completely useless and a liability to those around him - and those would be his strengths.

This is the real news, though. Jorginho is loved by teammates, relied upon by managers and at the heart of a Champions League winning side. Thinking about it, is it actually that mad to say he is the best midfielder in this Italy side, after all?

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