Football Features

Ballon d’Or nominees 2021: The arguments for, and against, Jorginho

By Harry Edwards

Ballon d’Or nominees 2021: The arguments for, and against, Jorginho

Published: 17:05, 29 November 2021


Every year, the Ballon d’Or seems to have a dark horse who, deservedly, threatens to upset the favourites, and for 2021 that’s Jorginho.

It wasn’t too long ago that Jorginho was the subject of Chelsea fans’ wrath for being Maurizio Sarri’s “son”, a favourite during the Italian’s one-year stay at Stamford Bridge. But he now has a place in Chelsea fans’ hearts with only the most stubborn of detractors unable to see the quality he brings to the team.

That quality and importance carry over to the Italian national team and Jorginho is finally receiving the plaudits he deserves in making the Ballon d’Or shortlist after joining an elite list of players to win the Champions League and European Championships in the same year.

So, should he receive the most coveted individual award in world football for the first time? Let’s look at the arguments for and against.

Jorginho Ballon d’Or winner odds

Bookmaker Odds Bookmaker link
Sky Bet 33/1 Link
SBK 41/1 Link
Unibet 40/1 Link

For: An important cog for winners

Jorginho isn’t a goalscorer or an assister, but that doesn’t mean he’s not important to his teams’ successes. In the knockout stages of the 2020/21 Champions League, Jorginho started six of Chelsea’s seven matches, playing the full 90 minutes every time. The only game he missed en route to Chelsea winning the Champions League was the 2-0 last-16 second-leg win over Atletico Madrid for which he was suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards.

At Euro 2020, Jorginho played and started every game to help Italy win the tournament, missing just 15 minutes in the final group stage game with the Azzurri‘s perfect record already secured. In the second half of the Champions League, Jorginho had 81.5 touches per 90 minutes and completed 59.83 passes per 90, while at Euro 2020 it was 79.15 touches and 61.79 passes completed per 90.

Against: Post Euros hangover

Chelsea have been brilliant in the Premier League this season with Jorginho still a key part of the team, one point clear at the top of the table having won nine of their opening 13 matches. However, the same cannot be said for Italy’s run.

Since winning Euro 2020, it wouldn’t be unfair to say Italy have been poor. Roberto Mancini’s men have played seven matches post-Wembley, five in World Cup qualifying and two in the Uefa Nations League, winning just two. One of those victories was a 5-0 win over Lithuania while the other came against Belgium in the Nations League third-placed playoff. While Italy have also lost just once during that run, the four draws have been costly, as the Azzurri have to go through the play-offs to secure their spot at the 2022 World Cup.

Jorginho has to take some portion of the blame, too, as he missed two penalties in two games against Switzerland which would have won Italy their group.

Things also weren’t perfect for Jorginho at Chelsea in the first half of the year, as they lost the FA Cup final and were fortunate to finish fourth in the Premier League despite the upturn in form under Thomas Tuchel.

For: Because Roberto Mancini and Patrice Evra said so

He may not be Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Robert Lewandowski, but Jorginho does still have stars backing him for Ballon d’Or glory thanks to his exploits for club and country.

“In my opinion, this Ballon d’Or is for N’Golo Kante or Jorginho, he deserves it! I do not understand why people say, ‘He’s just a midfielder’ — he won everything, participating a lot in these triumphs,” former Manchester United and France full-back Patrice Evra said.

“In my opinion, it’s an injustice [if Jorginho does not win it]. I’m sick of giving it to [Lionel] Messi. What did he win last year? Okay, the Copa America, but with Barcelona, what did he do?

“Last year, Jorginho also won trophies that didn’t exist, so for me, it’s an absolute injustice [if he does not win it].”

Jorginho has also received the plaudits from Italy teammates and manager Mancini, who said: “I would give him the Ballon d’Or, he deserves it because he won everything this season.”

Even Gerard Pique, when making his case for Lionel Messi, said: “If we are valuing trophies, Jorginho should be the winner but if you value the best player in the world, Leo must be the winner.”

Against: Overshadowed

If we’re being honest, Jorginho has very little chance of winning the Ballon d’Or because his is not a sexy job. To paraphrase Jamie Carragher, nobody wants to grow up to be a Jorginho. They want to be the goalscorers, the No.10s and wingers, even the massive centre-backs and goalkeepers. They want to be the heroes, the ones people can praise just by looking at the numbers.

In the future, those are the players whose quality will be remembered and easy to see with goals, assists and clean sheets. Players like Jorginho will only be remembered and given the recognition they deserve by those who watched them play. It’s a similar case for the 2021 Ballon d’Or, just look who Jorginho is up against. Goalscoring phenoms Robert Lewandowski, Karim Benzema and Mohamed Salah, who are in the form of their lives, and one of the best players (if not the best) ever, Lionel Messi.

Jorginho’s even overshadowed in his own Chelsea team, particularly by N’Golo Kante who put in a man-of-the-match performance in the Champions League final against Manchester City.

“The Jorginho one baffles me,” Rio Ferdinand told BT Sport of the Ballon d’Or shortlist. “He’s not the best player at Chelsea and he’s not the first name on the teamsheet with Italy either.

“Listen, he’s a very good player and I’m not trying to be disrespectful but I don’t see how he gets on the list with those players at the level those guys have been playing at.

“If you look at Chelsea in the run-in to winning the Champions League, I think Kante was man of the match in five of the last six games so it baffles me.

“He’s won two of the big trophies I get that, I understand it but when you’re putting him up against the four other players there it doesn’t really make sense to me.”

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For: His trophy cabinet

As Pique and Ferdinand said, you have to take Jorginho into consideration because of his trophy cabinet. Sure, Lewandowski won the Bundesliga, but did he win the Champions League? No. Kante won the Champions League but did he also win the main continental title? Nope. Messi won Copa America, but did he win that AND the Champions League? No, he didn’t.

Do you know who won the Champions League and their continental’s main title, while playing in both finals (sorry Emerson)? Jorginho.

If we add the Uefa Super Cup, then Jorginho is the only player in history to have won the Champions League, European Championships and Super Cup in the same year while also playing in all three finals.

Then there’s the fact that Jorginho has also already been named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year for his 2021, becoming just the second player after Cristiano Ronaldo to do a treble of the Player of the Year, Champions League and Euros.

Since the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year was first awarded for 2010/11, just three winners have failed to also scoop the Ballon d’Or — excluding 2020 when the UEFA award took place but the Ballon d’Or didn’t. The three unlucky players have been Andres Iniesta in 2012 (Messi won Ballon d’Or), Franck Ribery in 2013 (Ronaldo) and Virgil van Dijk in 2019 (Messi). Cristiano Ronaldo has done the double three times, Messi twice and Modric once.

How do Jorginho’s stats compare to the other favourites?

*Goals and assists are in Europe’s top five leagues, national cups and Uefa club competitions. 

Player Goals Assists Club trophies International trophies
Robert Lewandowski  50  5  2  0
Lionel Messi  32  9  1  1
Karim Benzema  32  12  0  1
Mohamed Salah  31  8  0  0
Jorginho  7  2  1  1
Kylian Mbappe  36  18  1  1
Bruno Fernandes  18  17  0  0
Cristiano Ronaldo  29  6  0  1

Jorginho’s goals and assists cannot really be taken into consideration, and certainly not compared to the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe, given the vastly different role he plays. The Italian is, however, one of just three players in the above list to win trophies with club and country and, as mentioned, the only nominee to win both the Champions League and a major continental tournament (sorry Nations League fans).

Who are the other Ballon d’Or nominees?

Jorginho is not among the favourites to win the Ballon d’Or. In fact, he’s pretty low. The real competition at the top is between Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski.

The Polish striker was in ridiculous goalscoring form last season, netting 50 times for Bayern Munich across all competitions, helping them secure yet another Bundesliga title and the German Super Cup. In the Bundesliga alone, he scored 41 goals, the most in a single season of the German top-flight which obviously earned him the European Golden Shoe, too. Messi, meanwhile, was directly involved in 41 goals for Barcelona and won the Golden Boot as he helped Argentina win Copa America.

Then there’s Karim Benzema, who has been excellent as the star striker for Real Madrid, continuing his move away from the shadows that had been Cristiano Ronaldo. The Frenchman is a goalscorer and assister, proving a striker who can really do both. Then there are the likes of Mohamed Salah, Kylian Mbappe and N’Golo Kante, though that particular trio join Jorginho in being unlikely to take the crown.

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