The footballing landscape of talented left-backs has seen a tremendous boom over the past couple of years. While many countries have contributed their fair share of world class talent, you would be hard pressed to find a more fertile production ground than the country of Brazil. While Marcelo is currently the cream of the crop of not only his country, but the world, and Alex Sandro is the main man leading the next generation of superstars, there is a youth movement that already has big clubs around the world salivating. Although his arrival to European shores may have been later than the others, there is a young wonderkid who may just eventually surpass them all: Jorge, of AS Monaco.
Born in 1996, Jorge Marco de Oliveira Moraes’ childhood is not a unique tale for most of Brazil’s footballing exports. Raised in the dilapidated favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Jorge would pile his trade over dust laden pitches adorned by make-shift goals. The cultivation of his footballing prowess would eventually take him to Flamengo, signing with the Rio club at the age of 11. After years of steady progression and learning the tricks of the trade, the 2015 U20 World Cup in New Zealand was truly his coming out party. He helped lead Brazil to a silver medal and was elected the best left-back of the tournament.
Subsequently, Jorge would be placed on the initial list of 35 names to represent his home country at the Rio Olympics alongside the some of the biggest stars the country had to offer, but in the final cuts that shrunk the side to 18, he would find himself on the outside looking in. Like most young Brazilian full backs, a joyous mindset and an attacking prowess were traits Jorge was seemingly born with. At the same time, his defense was still far too inconsistent and would need to be tightened up before the big boys of Europe would begin to take notice.
Back at his club Flamengo, one very familiar name to football aficionados would be the role model imperative to this progression. Longtime Seleção defender and the former Bayer Leverkusen and Roma man, Juan, would join the Brazilian outfit and take the young Jorge under his wing. Standing shoulder to shoulder with a man who knew about what it took to make a name for yourself and prove all of the doubters wrong, Jorge was able to almost instantly see improvement. His focus would reach levels not seen before and his defense would vastly improve, so much so, that he was elected Brazilian Serie A’s best left-back in 2016. With his tactical understanding evolving with every touch, the mental part of the game was now beginning to mirror the physical.
As the January 2017 transfer window approached, many of Europe’s elite would begin to register an interest in Jorge. The two clubs at the top of the list were Manchester City and AS Monaco. Led by Pep Guardiola and Leonardo Jardim, respectively, both had similar visions for how Jorge’s style of play would fit their tactical profiles like a glove. Given the sheer absurdity between the two clubs when it comes to its power of finances, Monaco understood that they needed to act with a sense of urgency in order to grab his signature and that’s exactly what they did, signing Jorge to a five-year contract for a fee of €8.5m.
His first season at the club would not be an easy one, as he would make a grand total of two appearances as Monaco steamrolled to the Ligue 1 title. Sitting all of that time on the bench could have shattered a young player’s confidence, but Jorge never complained and continued to get better. With Benjamin Mendy’s subsequent departure, Jorge’s time to shine would come this season and thus far, his play has not let anyone down. Jorge is as cool as the other side of the pillow under pressure. In Europe, teams tend to employ much more pressing into their defenses, but the Brazilian is able to remain calm until the right pass reveals itself, evidenced by his two assists already. In addition, his dashing runs and powerful shot have already put defenses across the continent on high alert. While not a powerful man by any stretch of the imagination, Jorge makes up for it with his height and lankiness. His octopus like limbs are able to poke balls free and make interceptions that most wouldn’t dare, helping alleviate the pressure on the rest of his back line. While the titanic array of departures had many around the globe questioning if the French club could replicate last season’s success, Monaco haven’t seemed to miss a beat and that has been the direct result of players like Jorge filling in and playing above their years.
While his speed and lack of intensity at all times can be a hinderance, these are things that can be rectified, especially under the watchful eye of Jardim who is one of the best in the business at pulling everything he can out of someone’s talent. Monaco has been a great place for young jewels to be polished and if the French side is willing to follow business as usual, they may have just found their latest.
Writer: Justin Sherman/