Lionel Messi may be the favourite to win the 2021 Ballon d’Or, but former Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri believes Italy lynchpin Jorginho has strong claims.
Jorginho, 29, was ever-present over the last season with Chelsea, helping the Blues clinch Champions League glory and finish in the top four of the Premier League.
The midfield conductor has been just as impressive on the international stage, helping the Azzurri reach the final of Euro 2020.
Jorginho scored the decisive penalty in the shootout victory over Spain in Tuesday night’s semi-final, and his former manager believes he would be a worthy winner if Italy emerge victorious in Sunday’s showpiece.
“If Italy were to win the European Championship, it is clear that he would become one [a favourite for the Ballon d’Or],” said Sarri.
“He is a refined player, probably not understandable by everyone. You have to set your eyes on him and only watch him in the game.
“He is so good and intelligent that he makes everything seem easy, rarely anything spectacular remains in your eyes. This is his greatness.”
When joining Chelsea in 2018, Sarri made sure to bring Jorginho, his former player at Napoli, with him to Stamford Bridge.
The player struggled to live up to his £50million price tag at first and there were questions of whether his side-to-side passing and possession-based approach was suitable for the Premier League.
But Jorginho won over many of his critics over the course of his 43 appearances last season, during which he also chipped in with eight goals.
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Nonetheless, he remains a firm outsider for the Ballon d’Or, whereas Messi is a strong favourite to win the accolade for a seventh time.
The 34-year-old plundered 38 goals and registered 17 assists last season as Barcelona won the Copa del Rey, albeit finishing a disappointing third in La Liga.
Like Jorginho, Messi has been lighting up the international stage and is the top scorer and top provider at the Copa America, with four goals and five assists to his name.
The Argentina legend teed-up Lautaro Martinez to open the scoring against Colombia in the semi-final in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Colombia hit back after half-time but Messi converted his penalty in the shootout and Emiliano Martinez saved three spot kicks as Argentina progressed to the final.
Should the legendary forward win the tournament by beating hosts Brazil, his grip on the Ballon d’Or would increase even further.
Messi has never won the Copa America, falling short in three previous finals, but he has the chance to put that right in the final early on Sunday morning.