How Chelsea's unsung hero Jorginho came of age in Real Madrid masterclass

Chelsea secured their first Champions League Final in nine years last night, after defeating Real Madrid 2-0 (3-1 agg.) in an enthralling encounter at Stamford Bridge.

Thirteen minutes into the game, Chelsea midfielder Jorginho was booked for clumsily bundling over Eden Hazard, and no doubt elicited mass groans of concern and frustration from Blues fans at home, fearing the Italy international’s premature exit.

What followed was an absolute masterclass in diligence and composure.

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While pundits, quite rightfully, swooned for Blues sensation N'Golo Kante, Jorginho was the unsung hero of the night – delicately threading balls through midfield with unerring accuracy, and busting a gut to help out with defensive duties as the pressure continued to rise.

Chelsea star Jorginho during last night's Champions League semi-final win over Real Madrid (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

As Chelsea's attackers, almost comically, continued to miss chance upon chance, it felt like it could be 'one of those nights' for the Blues, with the Zinedine Zidane's vastly experienced side of proven winners always capable of breaking hearts with a moment of clinical late brilliance.

Then, with the game delicately poised at 1-0, Karim Benzema bustled his way past Thiago Silva, and looked to be in the perfect position to level the tie with by launching a trademark, laser-guided missile of a finish.

Jorginho hurtled backed, and, without hesitation or thought of missing the final by being sent off, launched himself into the challenge – dispossessing his opponent with an inch-perfect tackle.

All in all, the Brazil-born ace made six interceptions throughout the game, which saw Timo Werner and Mason Mount both score to book Chelsea's place in the final against Manchester City. On top of that, he notched up a passing success rate of almost 90% – two of which should have led to goals, had his teammates not continued to spurn their goal-scoring opportunities.

Jorginho and N'Golo Kante of Chelsea celebrate after Mason Mount (obstructed) scored their team's second goal.

This stellar performance was all the more meaningful, when you consider the player could have easily walked away from Chelsea two years ago.

In the darkest days of Maurizio Sarri's season-long reign at Stamford Bridge, when expletive chants regarding the manager's choice of tactics erupted from the stands, Jorginho, who joined the Blues along with Sarri from Napoli, quickly became the on-field scapegoat for the supporters' ire.

Seen as the malevolent embodiment 'Sarriball' – a footballing philosophy which never quite took the Premier League by storm – Jorginho was jeered off the field on more than one occasion by a significant number of disgruntled Blues supporters.

He looked shell-shocked, and was clearly struggling to adapt to the rigours of Premier League football. His opponents, smelling blood, knew that all of Chelsea's play went through him, and he was continually swarmed by two or three players when in possession, leading to costly errors and rash decision making.

Jorginho was closely associated with Maurizio Sarri during his ill-fated spell as Chelsea manager.

Following a string of harrowing performances, including a 4-0 loss to Bournemouth followed up by a 6-0 drubbing at Manchester City, Jorginho was booed onto the field as his side took on Malmo in the Europa League.

Things went downhill from there, as he was jeered off the field following another poor outing against Wolves, and then endured the wrath of fans for missing a penalty in the Carabao Cup against Manchester City, with his trademark 'hop, skip and a jump' technique letting him down in front of 90,000 fans.

As for the social media backlash, don't even go there.

Jorginho was acutely aware of accusations of being Sarri's 'chosen one' – a situation which bizarrely repeated itself with the 'Lampard's son' jibes aimed at Mason Mount during his early days in the Chelsea senior squad.

“I certainly don't consider myself a golden boy,” Jorginho told the Guardian, at the peak of his struggles, and added: “Even if they think I am Sarri's man, I want to show them why Sarri likes me, that I am a good player and they are wrong to have that attitude towards me.

“But I have never had any doubts. I believe in myself. I know how hard I am working and how much effort I am putting in. So, while I accept [the critics’] views, I don’t share them. I respect their opinion, I listen, I stay calm and work hard, trying to do better.”

Last night, now capable of transfering that confidence onto the field, the ex-Hellas Verona man was true to his word, as he outclassed, out-scrapped and outwitted one of the most talented midfield line-ups in Europe, with Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro looking shadows of their former selves as the rain teemed down in West London.

As the final whistle was blown, and the wild scenes of celebration, Jorginho sank to his knees in silent contemplation, head bowed, and fists pressed firmly into the Stamford Bridge turf in a moment of pure catharsis. Reflective and tearful, it was a coming of age performance for a player who could have taken the easy route out back in 2019.

When the Blues head to Istanbul in three weeks time, the likes of Phil Foden, Kevin de Bruyne, Kante and Mount will feature heavily in the pre-match analysis, but the influence Chelsea's relentless regista could have on the game should not be underestimated.

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