Chelsea's move for Jorginho a stark contrast to last year's puzzling signing of Danny Drinkwater
Perhaps Jorginho's debut was always destined to be at Wembley. The only question surrounded the kit he donned. It long looked like his bow would come in the colours of Manchester City. Instead, he is set to line up against them. Chelsea's costliest ever midfielder giving the champions a glimpse of the player they could have had.
The £57 million man offers not one comparison but three, all with midfielders past or present at the clubs who pursued him. If Pep Guardiola wanted Jorginho to understudy, alternate with and ultimately replace Fernandinho, his plans required ripping up when Chelsea appointed Jorginho's mentor Maurizio Sarri. But Fernandinho's busy summer, culminating in Brazil's World Cup quarter-final appearance, has delayed his return to training until this week. If he starts on Sunday, it will be because Jorginho spurned City for Chelsea. If not, a clash of styles may instead be postponed until December's league meeting.
Because whereas Fernandinho can defy his 33 years with some all-action displays, Jorginho is a different sort of anchorman. "Not a physical player, but quick in the mind," said Sarri last month; the same description applied to the cerebral Guardiola in his playing days. Perhaps it explains why the City manager wanted a kindred spirit, a man who sits at the base of midfield, operating in a defensive midfielder's position but who is essentially constructive. Jorginho is the regista, the instigator of attacks. Even though he looks to pass the ball forwards, his pass completion rate hovered around the 90 percent mark over his three seasons under Sarri at Napoli. The chances are that it would have got still higher under Guardiola.
And yet in a way, the most pertinent comparison is with a new colleague, a player who will be shunted further down the pecking order and, in one respect, a neighbour. There seems something symbolic in Chelsea's squad numbers, seeing Jorginho, who will wear No. 5, next to Danny Drinkwater, the No. 6.
They have been midfield additions in successive summers, but the similarities end there. Jorginho can be seen as the anti-Drinkwater. The Italy international is indelibly associated with Sarri in a way the Englishman was not with Antonio Conte. He has been brought in before the start of the season, indicating his centrality in the plans, rather than in the final hours of the window in seeming desperation. Jorginho can feature immediately whereas Drinkwater's debut was delayed until October by injury. His season never really recovered from its false start.
The 2018 recruit is designed to suit and define an ethos; the 2017 buy was not. Sarri's signing will be an automatic starter. The man who scarcely seemed Conte's choice -- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had been targeted and eluded Chelsea -- was brought in as a squad player. While Jorginho's distribution statistics equip him for a top-class team, Drinkwater's -- with pass completion rates under 80 percent at Leicester -- indicated that he was in a more direct team. It meant he would always have to adjust to Chelsea.
Jorginho, who turns 27 in December, may be an irregular scorer -- just two goals in 133 Serie A games for Napoli -- and almost certainly produce a sizeable loss if he stays in London for several seasons, but Drinkwater is the true false economy.
Somewhere along the line, Chelsea's business plan became warped. The club who bought emerging players on an upward curve and, while they sometimes rued the ones they sold without using enough, often produced a profit, instead spent an already inflated fee on a backup in Drinkwater who, at 27, would soon see his value decline. While the £15m for 24-year-old Ross Barkley looked a fine financial deal, despite Conte's obvious reservations about the Evertonian as a player, Drinkwater, at £20m more, looked a shortcut to losing money. The suggestions he will go for £20m would give Chelsea a £3m loss for each of his five league starts, or £7.5m per league win when he started.
The lone piece of logic behind his recruitment was that he might recreate his Leicester alliance with N'Golo Kante, albeit in a different shape and with a different style of play. Instead, he looked a lesser player than the loaned-out Ruben Loftus-Cheek and the sold Nathaniel Chalobah. Instead, now Jorginho will be a partner to Kante.
There was a kind of botched rationale in signing a title winner to bolster Chelsea's slender homegrown contingent, but doing so when Drinkwater was not a particular target of the manager's, when he rarely looked like being a first choice and when age, injury and the timescale meant he seemed both a short-term buy and one who was not ready in the short term. It was a failure of thinking whereas Jorginho represents both something more idealistic and more practical.
If Jorginho can rebrand Chelsea and implement Sarri's brand of football, he has the potential to prove one of the most influential arrivals of the season. In his own way, and without actually playing particularly badly, Drinkwater represented one of the worst of last year. If they provide opposites in style of play and the strategy behind their signings, Chelsea must hope they are in impact as well.
Richard Jolly covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @RichJolly.