FOOTBALL superstar Jorginho has come a long way from the sandy beaches and blue waters of Imbituba in southern Brazil.
The Italian midfield maestro, now 31, has joined Arsenal after nearly five years at Chelsea for a fee in the region of £12million.
His impressive CV boasts a Champions League win with the Blues, as well as a European Championships with Italy and a third placed Ballon d’Or finish just two years ago.
But, it’s his mum who he credits for his incredible rise in the game.
“My mother played football so I learned a lot from her,” Jorginho revealed in 2013.
“She still plays today and understands a lot. She would take me to the beach with a ball and I would spend the whole afternoon doing technical work in the sand.”
Mum Maria Tereza Freitas would spend most of her day working as a cleaner to put food on the table and earn enough money to buy her son boots and a ball, while taking him to play for his local team Bruscão.
By the age of 13, Jorginho moved 112 miles from home to fulfil his football dreams in an academy financed by a businessman to produce the best young footballers in the country.
It was the making of the teen, who would go on to become a Premier League regular and Italy hero.
To Verona and beyond
An exciting prospect as a boy, Jorginho was selected in a group of 50 kids selected as part of a project formed by Italian businessmen in Guabiruba to create the next wave of brilliant Brazilians.
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But these weren’t the state-of-the-art facilities youngsters today are accustomed to.
Windowless rooms, monotonous meals and ice-cold baths made for a grim experience.
However, two years later he was signed by Italian club Verona who played in the second tier at that time.
Jorginho’s first deal at the club was far from lucrative, though. While the agent took £27,000 from the transaction, the emerging midfielder had just £18-a-week to live on.
A large chunk of that went on keeping in touch with his mum, who managed to convince him to continue his football education after he threatened to quit.
At first, the young boy struggled to fit in to his new surroundings. He couldn’t live in a boarding school with his other team-mates.
Instead, Riccardo Prisciantelli, the former chief executive of Hellas Verona, gave Jorginho to a trusted priest and he lived in a convent among other monks.
“I could not do anything,” he told the Daily Mail.
“I used five euros for mobile credit, bought hygiene products, which was 15 euros, and the rest was used online to talk to my family.
“It was like that for a year-and-a-half.
“In the second year, I trained with the professionals and when I met the Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael Pinheiro, who is almost a brother to me, I told my story and he did not believe it.
“From there, he did not let me miss anything.”
The Wolf of the Future at Napoli
Jorginho’s sheer determination to make it as a pro earned him the nickname ‘The Wolf of the Future’ among his peers at the Italian club.
He worked hard on the pitch, and was regularly seen in the gym at the training centre – where he worked hard from dawn to dusk.
After a successful loan spell with Serie D side Sambonifacese, Jorginho returned to Verona and excelled, making his first-team debut as an 18-year-old in September 2011.
He was a key figure in their promotion-winning side in 2013 and earned a move to Italian giants Napoli six months later – snubbing Manchester City’s advances.
During his time at the Stadio San Paolo, Jorginho learned about the Premier League after rooming with Nathaniel Chalobah, the former Blues midfielder on loan to the Serie A side in 2015.
For three years, Jorginho worked under former Blues boss Maurizio Sarri in Naples – and they were briefly reunited in West London.
The Italian coach knew his qualities well.
“Jorginho is not a physical player, he is a technical player,” Sarri said.
“The most important quality is that he is very quick in the mind.”
Life after Sarri
Losing an important mentor in the game could have hindered Jorginho’s Premier League career before it had really got going.
Sarri was sacked after a year at Stamford Bridge and replaced with Frank Lampard – who himself lasted just 18 months.
In came Thomas Tuchel after his PSG sacking – who was known for his more pragmatic approach.
But that didn’t stop the deep-lying playmaker from playing his best football in a Blues shirt.
Speaking of Tuchel, Jorginho said: “He understood my characteristics.
“The way to play with short passes when we need short passes and long balls when we need long balls.”
In return, the German called his talisman “one of the very best midfielders in the world.”
Together, they conquered Europe – winning the Champions League in 2021.
Months later, he would cap off the most wonderful football season by lifting the European Championships with Italy – beating England in the final on penalties.
Jorginho was voted third in the Ballon d’or – behind winner Lionel Messi and runner-up Robert Lewandowski for his efforts for club and country.
Away from the pitch, the 46-cap Italy star is in a romance with singer Catherine Harding (better known as Cat Cavelli) who appeared on The Voice in 2020 and was mentored by Olly Murs.
It was alleged Jorginho met her while still married to Italian model Natalia Leteri.
They divorced in 2020, the same year Jorginho and Harding welcomed a son, Jax – his third child.
Harding, herself, had a daughter called Ada with Hollywood star Jude Law, after they had a brief romance in 2014.
A-list status is not something that Jorginho is worried about embracing.
But with a title charge at Arsenal for his next port of call, he will be hoping for a blockbuster end to the season.