This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Chelsea’s decision to sign Jorginho in the summer of 2018 was impossible to separate from the arrival of Maurizio Sarri, a manager who was acutely aware of the Italian’s skill set after working closely with closely with him at Napoli.
Mateo Kovacic, meanwhile, was signed in the same window on a loan deal which appeared destined to lead to nothing at the end of a relatively mediocre campaign. Despite the transfer ban, a loophole dictated that he was the only player the Blues were legally allowed to sign, and Roman Abramovich naturally capitalised on a quirk in the system to sign him on a permanent basis.
What Frank Lampard was left with was a pair of immensely talented players who had been stifled under Maurizio Sarri’s tenure, offering little more than fleeting glimpses of promise.
Amid the furore of Lampard’s youth revolution at Stamford Bridge there appears to be little else worth acknowledging, but Kovacic and Jorginho build a stark case to swipe down such a naive assumption.
The pair – particularly the latter – have blossomed under the new manager and collectively they have started to lay the foundations for a thriving, long-term partnership.
At the core of any budding partnership is a mutual understanding and appreciation for the other 50% and Kovacic’s recent interview with Chelsea’s official website suggests he has that in abundance for the former Napoli star.
“I watched Jorginho when he was at Napoli, when we played against each other, but I think now he is getting even better,” Kovacic states.
“He is a great player. I didn’t know he was so good, but when you train with him you see it. I’m enjoying it, I think he is as well, and we need to keep working on that.”
That the £58.5m-rated midfield pivot, per Transfermarkt, has surprised Kovacic speaks volumes about the impact he is having at Stamford Bridge this season.
After all, the Croatia international has lined up alongside a plethora of elite midfielders in his time, including the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Toni Kroos.
The two players have already lined up for the Blues 59 times – including 16 times this season – collecting an average of 2.02 points per game in the process and given Lampard’s selection this season it’s fair to assume they are likely to line up against Manchester City this weekend.
Kovacic’s appreciation for Jorginho is not only a positive indicator of the feel-good factor emerging in west London under Lampard, but it also points towards the emergence of a thriving long-term partnership that few would have seen coming at the end of the 2018/19 season.