Colombia were a team that captured the imagination over the course of the 2014 World Cup, and as you might expect, a host of their players have been subjected to much adulation since they were knocked out of the tournament by Brazil at the quarter-final stage.
While James Rodriguez was undeniably the star man for Los Cafeteros, Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado played a wonderful supporting role and has subsequently been subject to reported interest from a host of Europe’s most illustrious outfits.
But latest reports suggest that the 26-year-old winger has his heart set on a move to Barcelona. According to Spanish newspaper Sport (h/t 101 Great Goals), the Blaugrana have “long struck a tentative agreement with the player,” and Cuadrado’s agent is set to sit down with Fiorentina officials to discuss an exit strategy.
Here’s a copy of Sport’s front page covering the Cuadrado angle, courtesy of the 101 Great Goals Twitter account:
Cuadrado himself recently spoke about his future, claiming last month that he was happy and settled in Florence but dropped a hint that he could be tempted by a possible move elsewhere, per Jack Wilson of the Daily Star:
I've said it before and I'll say it again: my family and I are very happy in Florence. Right now I'm focussed on the World Cup. After which, the time will come to think about my future.
It feels strange to be valued at over €30m (£24m). It seemed incredible at first, but I'm very happy here. I haven't changed my mind.
The report also suggests that Manchester United and Arsenal are keen on the Viola man and, given Cuadrado’s effervescent performances at the 2014 World Cup, it’s easy to see why any club would be interested in the player’s services.
Stylistically, Cuadrado is something of a throwback. He’s an orthodox wide player, capable of attacking his opponent on the inside or out by using his pace and ever-expanding array of skills. He gave Colombia a superb outlet during the World Cup, bagging four assists in the tournament, as noted here by Opta Jose:
4 - Juan Cuadrado is the 1st player to provide four assists in a World Cup since Riquelme and Totti in 2006. Aces. pic.twitter.com/OwlFRvErUx— OptaJose (@OptaJose) June 28, 2014
His fine World Cup came on the back of a stellar domestic season. For La Viola he notched 11 goals and five assists in just 31 starts, per WhoScored.com, as Cuadrado terrorised Serie A defences with his devastating blend of pace and purpose. He inspired Fiorentina to a fourth-placed finish last season, but now it seems as though his future could be elsewhere.
Here are some of the best bits from his excellent domestic campaign:
For Barcelona, Cuadrado would be a fine capture. He is an extremely versatile player, not only capable of operating anywhere across the forward line but all the way across the midfield and even at full-back too. He is an extremely intelligent and adaptable player, one who would fit seamlessly into the Barcelona way of playing.
While the Blaugrana are a team that place a huge onus on keeping the ball, players like Cuadrado—who can offer a supreme direct threat—are vital to making the team flourish as a collective.
With Alexis Sanchez looking increasingly likely to depart, per Charles Reynolds of The Telegraph, Cuadrado is a player who can give the Catalans that raw attacking edge.
With the finalisation of a deal for Luis Suarez sure to be Barcelona’s priority this summer, per Graeme Yorke of the Mail Online, it would be naive to expect any immediate movement on a deal for Cuadrado.
Fiorentina will also been keen on keeping hold of their prized asset and be hoping to build a team around him that can challenge for a Champions League spot next season.
But if Barca do eventually come calling, it’ll be extremely difficult for La Viola to stand in the way of a player who has served them so well and one they would be likely to receive a fairly hefty transfer fee for.
You suspect the prospect of linking up with the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar would be an opportunity Cuadrado would be insatiably keen to grasp.