There are few players in European soccer that have both the ingenuity and industry to immediately improve this current Chelsea team. After all, Jose Mourinho is a manager who boasts very bespoke principles and for the Blues to stumble across a talent of that calibre in January is something of a rarity.
But as Andre Schurrle closes in on a move to Wolfsburg, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the Blues will need to find a replacement for the German. And at this juncture, all signs point towards a swoop for Fiorentina man Juan Cuadrado.
Encouragingly for Chelsea supporters, the Colombian winger is a player who fits the bill in every sense.
Should he joining up with the Blues, it’d cap a pretty remarkable rise for the player. After failing to make an impact with Udinese following a transfer from Independiente Mellin and floundering once again during a loan spell with Lecce, Cuadrado’s career looked to be stalling. Indeed, when La Viola took a chance on him back in 2012/13, he was considered a capable but capricious utility man.
And while his versatility has been a very useful attribute at the Stadio Artemio Franchi—Cuadrado has featured in every position except center-back for Fiorentina since joining—it’s his performances on the right wing that have really caught the eye. Some sustained playing time has worked wonders for the winger and last season, he was arguably the finest player in the whole of Serie A.
On the back of that superb campaign, Cuadrado was equally majestic at the 2014 World Cup. The link-up between himself and James Rodriguez in a thrilling Colombia team gave us some of the highlights of the tournament, and it was no surprise that the Fiorentina man was subsequently linked with a move to some of the most illustrious names on the continent.
A cornerstone move didn’t quite materialize last summer, but instead of sulking, Cuadrado has continued to perform for La Viola. He remains one of the very best players in the division, racking up four goals and four assists in 17 league appearances so far and preserving his longstanding reputation as one of the continent’s most exciting players.
What kind of player will Chelsea be getting then? Stylistically, Cuadrado is a throwback wide-man and a player who would bring a completely different edge to the Blues’ attacking forays.
While the likes of Eden Hazard and Willian are deployed on the flanks, their fundamental footballing instincts encourage them to float inside. But you suspect the Colombian—while he’s been deployed centrally for Fiorentina a lot this season—will be tasked with stretching the pitch laterally for the Blues.
He’s a player who relishes one-on-one situations and is someone who has dazzled full-backs during his three seasons in the iconic Fiorentina colors. Whether it’s by utilizing his blistering speed or his array of tricks with the ball at this feet, there are few defenders in Serie A that have been able to pin him down for a sustained spell.
A large part of that is to do with the player’s work-rate, a quality that will have surely helped endear him to Mourinho. Cuadrado has an infectious willingness to be involved in the game and has no issues tracking back to make a defensive contribution for his team. It’s this kind of industry that also allows him to get in dangerous positions to receive possession.
Naturally, there will be questions about whether or not he can replicate that kind of form amidst the abrasive nature of top flight English soccer. Players who have looked to make the transition between Serie A and the Premier League have occasionally found it difficult, but Mourinho clearly feels that the Colombian is a player well suited for the rigorous challenges that will face him.
He’s a player that will be of great use to Chelsea too. Cuadrado’s classic wing play is exactly what the Blues need if they’re to get round the sides of opponents who bunker in, and his presence will bring stern competition for places amongst Mourinho’s stellar squad.
Expect him to be used from the bench initially, before battling with Willian for a spot on the right flank. It may take a while for the Stamford Bridge faithful to see the very best of the winger and he may frustrate in spells, but for a reported transfer fee of £23.2 million per The Guardian, eventually Cuadrado will prove to be money well spent.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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