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Jorginho to Manchester? Why Guardiola & Mourinho are fighting over the 'new Pirlo'

Likened to Andrea Pirlo. Celebrated as Serie A's outstanding midfielder. Urged to swap Naples for Manchester by Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. Jorginho, of Napoli, will enter this summer's transfer window with the world at his feet.

In Italy, they refer to Jorginho as a pure metodista, or playmaker. Think the just retired Pirlo, just more mobile. Indeed, it is only the former Juventus and AC Milan midfielder who sits in the top ten of most passes in a single Serie A game - the other nine slots are taken by Jorginho. His 218 against former club Hellas Verona in 2015 remains the record.

"It is really difficult to follow him and stop his play," concedes AS Roma's star man, Radja Nainggolan. "You get tired and he does not even move. You have to put all your energy into it."

For City and Guardiola, the attraction is obvious. Jorginho's career 88-91% pass completion rate is simply perfect for the City manager's style of play. And for Mourinho, facing up to the retirement of Michael Carrick, having a playmaker of Jorginho's quality could be the solution to the nagging problem of Paul Pogba's form woes.

Now 26, capped by Italy and with a name established across Europe, Jorginho almost threw it all away before he even kicked off his pro career.

Spotted at home in Brazil by Mauro Gibellini, then Hellas Verona's sporting director, he was brought to Italy as a 16 year-old - and admits he found the move near impossible to handle.

He recalled: "I arrived in Italy and lived on €20 a week, the agent who had brought me there disappointed me with something I did not like.

"I thought football could not be for me, I just could not handle it.

"I called my parents crying that I wanted to go back to Brazil. But they supported me and convinced me to stay."

Spending almost three years in Verona's youth system, Jorginho certainly paid his dues. But things turned for the better when offered a first pro contract.

"At the sight of my first salary I thought 'I'm rich'! And I bought a gift for my teammates in the seminary where I lived."

At 18, Verona agreed to send the midfielder out on-loan - to Serie C2 Sambonifacese. It was there, in modest surroundings, that Jorginho came under the guidance of the charismatic Claudio Valigi, the former Roma and Padova midfielder.

Valigi, even at that early stage of Jorginho's career, could see he had something special.

"Jorginho was a boy of great qualities when he came to us, it was not difficult to give him a starting shirt and have him play among other players much bigger than him," smiles Valigi.

"He is one who you can say is a great 'personality' footballer, he has always shown to have the spirit of adaptation to train, he was able to improve with us thanks to the application he showed. What you see now is because of that - he deserves all the results he's obtained, a great cheer to him and to those who discovered him."

While Gibellini can take credit, along with former Verona coach Andrea Mandorlini, Jorginho says his mother also had a big influence on his football. It wasn't just the phone calls from home that kept him going.

The midfielder adds: "It's not true that football is not for women, it's not true. I believe instead that women should have more opportunities.

"My mother was a former soccer player, she was also a very tough coach!"

After a year with Sambonifacese, Jorginho had done enough to convince Verona management he was ready for their first team. As mentioned, in charge at the time was Mandorlini, in the second of five years he would be coaching Verona.

Watching his protege now performing so comfortably for Napoli, Mandorlini isn't surprised to hear of interest arriving from Manchester.

"Jorginho can undoubtedly grow, he still has important margins for growth. Playing with good players made everyone see his true qualities," he says.

"In the short game, with his passing, the way Napoli plays for him is perfect."

And the former Genoa and Atalanta coach reveals he took time to work on Jorginho's defensive game while they were together.

"With me, Jorginho also did well as a central defender, in training sessions and in preseason I wanted him to learn the defensive aspects and all the movements involved.

"He played a little more deeper with me, but now he also has developed an attacking vision."

Valigi also states: "His characteristics are perfect for the way Napoli play. He has great room for growth, but in such a complicated role it is not easy to develop everything immediately."

From Serie C2 to the Champions League stage, Jorginho has shown he can overcome every rung he's so far had to climb in his career. Coaches, teammates, even Mum have all voiced their support. But what about someone independent?

Xabi Alonso, of Real Madrid and Liverpool fame, knows a thing or two about passmasters - and of adapting your game from Spain to England to Germany. Without any prodding, Xabi was eager to talk up Jorginho earlier this season.

"I really like Napoli's Jorginho. He is not a well-known player, but for Napoli he is perfect. He always takes part in the play, gives alternatives to his teammates and adds great dynamism to the game. He's perfect for Napoli."

As he will be in the Premier League, if Guardiola or Mourinho have their way.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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