There is sometimes a perception around the footballers’ profile that a footballer must excel in any system, condition or league. It should be natural that a player with a certain profile may not necessarily fit into every system.
Case in point – Donny van de Beek, the selfless midfielder, who thrived on the all-around football philosophy of Ajax Amsterdam, struggled to establish himself at Manchester United. This is partly due to the lack of regular minutes and partly due to the lack of a significant ‘van de Beek role’ at United initially. Or take Declan Rice, who has managed to build a low block or counterattack, but may not find the same success in a possession-dominant soccer team.
Two midfielders, Jorginho and Sergio Busquets, who fall under the same category, will take to the stage at Wembley on Tuesday night for the first Euro 2020 semi-final between Italy and Spain.
‘Fraud and exposed’ are the two words often associated with them in a situation where they misplace a back lane, are overtaken by a striker, or are physically overpowered by an opposing midfielder, which just so happens to be…but in the Eurozone, where the Teams that focused heavily on preparing around their star names to shine with an early exit, the duo, or ‘scams’, thrived on more fluid and proactive systems, which revolve around teamwork. And they always did it without drawing attention to them.
Playing as the deepest midfielder, their defensive numbers and actions may not rank as high as a midfield pitcher, lung-shattering. Their offensive production would not be among the best central midfielders in the world. They may not be moving 50-yard diameters while running from one end to the other to dictate play. It might feel like they’re swarming along the court but sometimes that can be enough. But both Jorginho and Busquets make it easy for their team to strike the needed balance in both defense and attack in order to thrive.
Brazilian-born Jorginho first came to prominence at the age of 24 with Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri, as he was an integral part of the team’s progressive offensive football. In 2018, Pep Guardiola wanted to bring him to Manchester City, but Chelsea paid for it when he brought Sarri to Stamford Bridge. Sarri was unable to replicate Sarribal with a new team in his first year and Jorginho was soon branded a “fraud”, who found it difficult in the Premier League. Frank Lampard still wanted him but struggled to find the balance between attack and defence.
Thomas Tuchel came in and played a smooth counter-attack that brought in the best of a talented squad, which won the Champions League. In Lampard’s second season, Jorginho started just eight of 19 league games, while he started in 17 of the remaining 19 league games under Tuchel. With the exception of his suspension from Atletico Madrid’s second leg, the 29-year-old has played every minute of Chelsea’s Champions League matches.
With Italy, Jorginho was a semi-permanent player under Roberto Mancini as he made 28 of his 33 appearances for the Azzurri after Mancini took charge in 2018. Under Mancini, the national team scored 90 goals in 37 games, consecutively. He scored 11 matches without conceding a goal and was unbeaten in 32 matches.
In all of these spells, Jorginho works in the shadows to allow the most creative and expressive players to flourish. It’s easier to think of Lorenzo Insigne, Gonzalo Higuain, Marco Verratti, or N’Golo Kante before Jorginho.
Spain’s Cesar Azpilicueta, Jorginho’s captain at Chelsea, touched on comparisons between his semi-final opponent and his colleague Busquets. “They are two great players who move well in short spaces: smart, tactically sharp, judge the space well and always choose the right pass for the team. Jorginho is a great footballer, very important to the way Italy plays. The less he interferes the more chance we have of controlling them. The match. Hopefully we can dominate on Tuesday: Sergio is very important to us in that,” he said.
The 32-year-old has achieved veteran status for being an invisible mid-park leader for Barcelona and Spain for more than a decade. To be fair with him, when you play alongside Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andreas Iniesta, it’s easy to get lost in the background and his work gets overlooked.
His job was to keep things simple. Help reclaim the ball, quickly redistribute possession and take advantage of space so that the most creative players thrive. Between 2010 and 2015, last season, the Xavi-Iniesta-Busquets trio played together, Busquets averaged 91.65 assists, 2.6 tackles and 2.23 interceptions per game. He often uses his success as a stick to beat him as well. Will he be able to adapt to the more physical demands of the domestic league? Mostly not. Can our planet penetrate it into another solar system? Again, maybe not.
Busquets is still the only player left in this team that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, but he’s not just there to help move Luis Enrique’s young team heading to Qatar 2022. As Azpilicueta pointed out, Busquets is key to making that happen. The Spanish side on the field.
For both Spain and Italy to implement possession-oriented football, players must work aggressively off the ball to replace the ball. to me Fbref The stats, among the 44 midfielders in the tournament with 50+ impacted pressings, Busquets had a success rate of 36.4 percent (6th) and Jorginho 32.1 percent (ninth). Jorginho is fifth in ball interceptions with 11, while Busquets occupies five of three games.
In terms of ball, Spain dominates the possession charts with 67.2 per cent while Italy is third with 55.8 per cent. While the duo does their part to retain possession, they also help advance play up the court. Of the 33 midfielders who attempted 150 passes, Busquets had 28 passes (8th) to the final third and Jorginho 45 passes (fourth).
On Tuesday, mid-park control will be the key to forcing the will of one team over the other, and Jorginho and Busquets will look to have their say in calm.