How Jorginho’s mum inflicted a rare defeat on Guardiola
From transfer advice to beach training sessions, Maria Tereza Freitas is a key influence on her son
When Jorginho was agonising over whether to join Chelsea or Manchester City in the summer, he did what any self-respecting international footballer would do: ask his mum.
“He really wanted to play for Pep Guardiola,” remembers Maria Tereza Freitas, speaking from her home in Brazil. “But it did not depend only on him, but on the clubs as well. He asked me: ‘As a player, Mum, which one would you pick: Chelsea or City?’
I said Chelsea because of the greatness and stronger tradition.”
Five months on, and it seems a wise decision. Jorginho and his Chelsea team-mates may be peering up at City in the Premier League table ahead of their visit to Stamford Bridge today, but he has proved one of the signings of the summer – the midfield metronome who has kept Chelsea ticking, to the extent that even N’golo Kante has had to change position to accommodate his arrival. Wednesday’s trip to Wolves was the first league game in which Jorginho did not feature this season – Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat might not have been a coincidence.
Guardiola ultimately wanted Jorginho to replace Fernandinho in his City team and this certainly counts as one of the rare occasions when City’s manager has not got his way in English football. But it also stands as testament to the influence Maria Tereza has over her son that he was prepared to let her shape his career so decisively.
Then again, she knows what she is talking about. Maria Tereza, now 54, is not only a fine amateur footballer in her own right, one who still enjoys kicking a ball with friends twice a week as a defensive midfielder in Imbituba, a coastal town in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, but she was also Jorginho’s first coach. Their impromptu training sessions would invariably take place on the beach, where she started to develop his technical ability by throwing the ball at him to hone his first touch. The four-year-old Jorginho would protest, volubly, but would always be met with the same response: “You can do it, sweetheart. To play football you need to learn the fundamentals, and controlling the ball is a fundamental.”
Maria Tereza can afford to laugh about it now. “I did it because I saw that he had a future,” she says. “People asked what I was doing with him, and I answered that one day they would understand what I was doing.”
Jorginho – now the father of two children himself, after his wife Natalia gave birth to a daughter hours after the 2-0 win over Fulham last Sunday – appreciates the sacrifices his mother made to set him on the road to success.
“I will never forget this time of my life because it was quite rewarding,” he tells The Daily Telegraph. “It was vital for my development and my career. It was different from most of my friends, given that usually it is the father who is with the kid. But I was happy with that. It was such a pleasure to share those moments with her.”
All the more so as spare time was in short supply for Maria Tereza. Her husband, Jorge, had told her to leave the family home with the children when Jorginho was six, so she had to hold down a variety of jobs as a single mother.
It is a familiar story in Brazil – six of the starting XI who played against Switzerland in the World Cup were raised solely by their mothers – but that did not make life any easier for her, Jorginho or her daughter, Fernanda, four years
Early days: Jorginho with Mario Junior, then coach and now director of his first club, Vila Nova Atletico Clube, in Brazil, and (right) applauding the Chelsea fans after last weekend’s win over Fulham
Family first: Jorginho with his mother Maria Tereza and sister Fernanda, who is now his accountant