This past weekend saw Napoli climb up the Serie A table, despatching reigning champions Juventus at the Stadio San Paolo thanks to goals from Gonzalo Higuaín and Lorenzo Insigne as the attacking duo continued their fine start to 2015/16. The Argentinean has shrugged off his Copa America nightmare to score five times in the opening six weeks of the campaign, while his local-born team-mate has now found the back of the net on three occasions and added two assists.
Dries Mertens has also shone in Maurizio Sarri’s new-look side, but so too has the trio of men behind them, with the Napoli midfield looking much better balanced than in recent years. Thanks to the arrival of Allan, who – having led the league in tackles last term with Udinese – has shown himself to be a far more of an all-round player than previously thought.
His constant shuttling between attack and defence has caught the eye, providing a couple of goals and some incisive passing along the way with Marek Hamšík complimenting him superbly. The club captain has regained the confidence that he appeared to lose last term, not unlike former Hellas Verona man Jorginho.
The 23-year-old struggled more than most during Rafael Benitez’s tenure, his skillset proving to be incompatible with the Spanish coach’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system. Positioned between his aforementioned colleagues at the heart of a three-man midfield, Jorginho has impressed once again as a deep-lying playmaker.
Formerly a target for Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool according to reports both on the peninsula and in England, his agent admitted this week that the player considered looking for a new club in recent months. “Jorginho has been Napoli’s most reliable player because he’s playing in a role on the pitch that suits him,” Joao Santos told Radio CRC. “Of course, this summer there was a risk of him leaving and if Benitez had stayed he’d probably have left.”
Fans of the Partenopei will be very glad he didn’t however, enjoying a string of excellent displays as the Brazilian flourished under Sarri’s guidance. It was thought that the central role would go to Mirko Valdifiori after he followed the new boss from Empoli, but he too has been reduced to looking on from the sidelines as Jorginho runs the show.
Completing over 90% of his pass attempts, he has dictated play for Napoli with supreme vision and creativity but continues to struggle with his tackling. Statistics provided by Squawka.com show he has won just six of the 20 challenges he has contested this term, and he can occasionally be bullied out of games by a more physical opponent.
Yet he is, as his former Coach Andrea Mandorlini described him, “a real player,” one fulfilling a dream that began when he left his homeland at just 15 years old in search of glory in Italy. Living on just €20 per week, he was finally picked up by Hellas Verona back in 2007, subsequently progressing through their youth sector and helping them earn promotion to the top flight two years ago.
A fine debut season in Serie A saw him weigh in with seven goals and three assists in 18 appearances by the Winter Break. Amid competition from that aforementioned group of Premier League teams – as well as a cluster of Italy’s bigger sides – it would be Napoli who moved quickest, signing him in January 2014.
The southern club are believed to have paid around €8.5 million in total to own him outright, and it is through his current excellent form with them that provides hope of a place in Italy’s midfield rather than that of his native Brazil. With Andrea Pirlo close to retirement and Valdifiori seemingly unable to replicate his form of a year ago, Jorginho appears to be the ideal man to back up Marco Verratti as the team’s new creator-in-chief.
Reportedly considered for a place at the last World Cup by former national team boss Cesare Prandelli, it was discovered that he was ineligible to represent the Azzurri until last December and has already been in talks with the current coach. “Antonio Conte spoke with Jorginho and expressed his interest,” his agent told CRC. “My client’s goal is to go to the European Championships next summer.”
“This can be my year!” the player himself declared in a recent interview with E Azzurro magazine, and if he keeps playing the way he has been thus far, Jorginho could well be swapping the beaches of Santa Catarina for the stadiums of France in the summer of 2016.
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