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Sarri's pet? How Jorginho won over Chelsea boss Lampard

COMMENT: Enthusiasm. Energy. It can take you a long way. And it can change people's minds. You need only ask Chelsea's current No5 for proof of that...

"Infectious", a player of "great quality and attitude", this is how Jorginho has been described by his manager this week - and not for the first time. Won over by the midfielder's approach to training. To his teammates. Lampard is effectively all-in on Jorginho. But that wasn't always the case.

In the days leading up to preseason kickoff, the new manager was lukewarm about the Italy international - at best. Perhaps he was simply hedging his bets. Unsure of whether Jorginho would be sticking around - or following Maurizio Sarri back to Serie A and Juventus. Or perhaps he'd had a word with former teammates. His peers. Those of the pundits' class. The ones who had long wrote off the former Napoli playmaker as nothing more than a Sarri favourite. A teacher's pet. A midfielder who can't tackle, can't create and doesn't score. Or so they said.

Of course this is discounting those in Jorginho's corner. Sarri aside, it must be recalled that Jorginho would be a Manchester City player if not for the Italian's intervention. Pep Guardiola, who actually knows a thing or two about a picking player, left angry and frustrated by Jorginho's about-face at the time. At national team level, Roberto Mancini also had no doubts about building his new Azzurri team around the Chelsea man. A close confidant telling this column that Mancini "loves the boy" and that his year in England "has improved him". "Playing at that (Premier League) speed has sharpened his mind and his game. All the staff see a recognisable improvement".

But in England, going into this preseason, the rumour mill was in overdrive: there'd be no room for such a player in Lampard's system.

Certainly, Jorginho caught wind of the doubts. Joao Santos, the player's long time - and trusted - agent, was quick to get on the front foot in the aftermath of Lampard's appointment. With no great assurances arriving from the new manager, Santos was in the Italian press making us all aware that Jorginho was in play. A move to Turin was mooted - and raised - by the rep: "Sarri needs a player like Jorginho to play his game. I know Sarri has arrived there recently, he will decide with (sports director Fabio) Paratici, I imagine they are talking about market objectives."

Santos wouldn't have gone rogue. There was clearly some concern at the player's end about Lampard's plans. But rather than sulk. Or even confront the new boss. Jorginho chose to get his head down. He wanted to stay. He'd made clear he and Sarri weren't joined at the hip. And from day one, he attacked preseason. Every minute of every session, Jorginho threw himself into what was asked. And not before long, Lampard was turning.

Indeed, the manager saw much of himself in the midfielder. Different players, sure. But Lampard had also experienced being judged, pilloried and typecast as a player. And having witnessed Jorginho's application and enthusiasm up close, it was enough to convince Lampard to get behind his No5.

"I've been there," recalled the Blues boss. "As a player, sometimes things are out of your control and the conversation carries on very quickly without you.

"He played in one position and the manager had faith in him and it became something that was talked about, possibly too much. But I'm a new manager. I have new ideas."

And those new ideas included a new system. A new way of playing. And after four years under the same manager, employing a style of football so unique in it's demands, Jorginho deserves great credit for the way he's adapted in this season's early rounds. Certainly Lampard is delighted. And rather than be satisfied with what he has, the manager wants more from Jorginho - convinced the passing ability he's seen on the Cobham pitches can be translated on matchday.

"What I see in Jorginho is a quality of pass and I want to see him use his range," said Lampard. "He played some great through-balls against Liverpool and I know he can do it. I watched him last year and I thought he finished the season really well but you only really know a player when you see them day in and day out."

Sarri, Guardiola, Mancini and Lampard... what are they seeing that so many last season failed (or refused) to recognise? At this stage, with his managers' support - for both club and country - it really doesn't matter. Indeed, after the way he's kicked off this campaign, his fanbase is only growing. Dutch greats Dick Advocaat and René van der Gijp both hailing the performance of Chelsea's "Brazilian boy" for the Super Cup defeat to Liverpool. "What dynamism, what mobility," enthused Van der Gijp. "They play damn well, with a lot of movement," declared Advocaat.

"Dynamism". "A lot of movement". The Dutch pair simply echoing what Lampard has said of Jorginho since those first sessions of preseason.

Enthusiasm and energy. In training and on matchday. It can take you a long way. Even change a manager's opinion. Just ask Sarri's pet for proof of that.


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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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