Somewhat overshadowed at the World Cup by the performances of his countryman James Rodriguez, Fiorentina’s flying winger Juan Cuadrado certainly showed enough promise to warrant the interest of some of the top European clubs to. Even before the World Cup begun, Cuadrado was being strongly linked to Barcelona with the exit of Dani Alves looking likely. However, with Alves now set to stay put, would a Premier League move be of more benefit the Colombian?
Born in Necoclí Colomia, Cuadrado began his career as a striker for local club Atletico Uraba aged 12. It was at Uraba that club founder Nelson Gallego insisted the youngster was moved to the wing due to his blistering pace even at such a young age. Cuadrado eventually impressed local scouts enough to earn a move to top division Colombian side Independiente Medellin in 2008 aged 20. While the initial progression from youth player to professional maybe took longer than normal, his rise has been almost meteoric since.
In July 2009, Udinese signed Cuadrado to a five year contract for fee that was never disclosed, and made his debut as a Right Wingback. First team opportunities were limited at Udinese however, with the formation at the time meaning Cuadrado’s only way into the side was indeed as a Right Wing back. Udinese having a settled defence, including another of Cuadrado’s fellow countrymen Cristian Zapata, meant a loan move was best for all parties. Lecce was the destination – but 33 league games and 3 goals wasn’t enough to save his adopted side from relegation from Serie A.
Evidently, Fiorentina saw something in Cuadrado that few other teams had at the time. For only £880,000, Fiorentina got Cuadrado for two seasons initially. While not setting the world alight, Cuadrado impressed whilst helping La Viola to a 4th place league finish, finishing the 2012-13 season with 5 goals and 6 assists.
Cuadrado felt the confidence of manager Vincenzo Montella in 2013-14 season, and the summer signings of Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gomez appeared to give the whole club an added lift. A second successive 4th place finish left Fiorentina just short of the Champions League spots, but with plenty to build on. Cuadrado himself was one of the outstanding performers in the league. In 32 league games, Cuadrado scored 11 goals and provided 7 assists for his teammates too. Naturally, this lead to speculation from the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid, but he wasn’t finished just yet.
Selection in the Colombia World Cup squad was the next obvious step. Jose Pekerman started Cuadrado in every game out in Brazil – and the flyer didn’t disappoint. A penalty against Japan opened his goals account, but he also finished the tournament tied with Toni Kroos as the assist leader with 4 assists. His gifted dribbling ability, close control and astute end product was perfect for Colombia’s quick tempo play, but his great stamina and brave tackling showed a different side to his game too – something which would suit him to the Premier League you would think.
Versatility is another string to Cuadrado’s bow, and could be major factor in such widespread interest too. While being able to play on both wings, he has operated at Right Back, Right Wing Back, and even in the number 10 position behind the main striker. In Serie A last season, Cuadrado averaged an impressive 4 successful dribbles and 2 key passes per game, with a pass success rate of 86%.
Pep Guardiola’s willingness to play Phillip Lahm in Centre Midfield for Bayern Munich means the Bavarians lack a World Class operator at Right Back/Right Wingback, despite Rafinha filling in well. Cuadrado could be the perfect addition to Bayern’s already star studded squad, and who could pass up the chance to play for such a special young side under one of the best managers in the game.
Barcelona could be a good destination for Cuadrado too. New manager Luis Enrique looks set to ring the changes throughout the side while focusing on the defence primarily. Dani Alves has been a great servant to Barca over the years, but his questionable defending lead to long term question marks over his club future – and even Luis Felipe Scolari dropping the Right Back after three games at the World Cup. Cuadrado would make sense as a long term replacement.
Manchester United need to spend big this summer to find their way back into the Champions League, and Cuadrado would be perfect for Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 formation. A nice balance of attacking and defensive qualities in his game could only have impressed Van Gaal over the last last year. With a rumoured £150million available should the Dutchman see fit to use it, Cuadrado would be a great addition to the Starting XI for around £30million.
After such a season, Cuadrado will have a host of top clubs to choose from all over Europe. As much as I would love to see him in the Premier League, it looks very likely that he will join Barcelona at this stage, (and who could blame him?!) with rumours building every day. Fiorentina had to pay £17million only two months ago to obtain full ownership of Cuadrado’s playing rights. It now looks like money very well spent whether they end up keeping the player for next season, or sell him for up to £30million and make a good return for their money this summer.