Manchester United's summer has already yielded the signing of two potential future stars with Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw joining the club, but many supporters are getting antsy by the lack of "marquee" names arriving at Old Trafford.
It's only July, but it seems the Red Devils' most interesting prospects reside in Italy, which currently plays home to Fiorentina's Juan Cuadrado (not to mention a certain Arturo Vidal). United are linked with a move for the speedy Colombian, as reported by Alex Harris of the Daily Express.
Harris reports comments from Andrea Della Valle, the Serie A club's co-owner, which were first revealed in La Gazzetta dello Sport: "When he comes back to us in a couple of weeks we will see if he shows his willingness to continue in Florence and if he still has the necessary motivation to stay with us. It's a tricky situation, as half of Europe are knocking on his door."
Sky Sports' Peter O'Rourke also highlighted potential interest from the Premier League club, which are expected to significantly rebuild under new boss Louis van Gaal:
Reports in Italy suggesting Manchester United are eyeing a move for Fiorentina and Colombia winger Juan Cuadrado. #MUFC— Pete O'Rourke (@SkySportsPeteO) July 21, 2014
Cuadrado has proven himself to be a hardworking, versatile and dangerous player during his spell in Italy. The Colombian, who shone with one goal and four assists during five World Cup appearances, is the type of player who can fit into the "philosophy" Van Gaal so often alluded to during last week's debut presser in his new job, as per The Associated Press (via Fox News).
Should Manchester United invest in Juan Cuadrado?
Van Gaal is the type of manager who looks to utilise players in various roles to help strengthen their game. Most famously, he moved Bastian Schweinsteiger into the centre from a wide position during his time with Bayern Munich, a decision that has allowed the German workhorse to highlight his battling qualities with greater emphasis (as highlighted during his terrific World Cup final showing).
Interestingly, Cuadrado is a player who is very much able to deal with multiple roles. He is a traditional winger at heart, but the 26-year-old can also play in the right-back position. Fiorentina fans have witnessed Cuadrado's confidence on either flank, through the centre and across almost the entire length of the pitch.
During an assessment of the player in 2013, WhoScored.com contributor James Horncastle said the player will be "at the crest" of Serie A's next "wave" to be snapped up by richer clubs. Horncastle noted the winger "weaves through opponents just as a rider on a scooter does fellow commuters in rush hour on a gridlocked stretch of road."
Although 11 goals and five assists in 32 appearances highlighted a creative force last season, Cuadrado is the type of player who fulfills all duties with real energy. He offers more than the likes of Ashley Young and Nani, both of whom have stuttered into a lack of production—be it attacking or defensive—at Old Trafford.
Cuadrado racked up an average of 1.8 tackles per match, completed 3.7 dribbles per game and was fouled an average of 3.6 times each appearance, as per WhoScored.com. His pass accuracy came in at 85.7 percent last season, as he also registered an average of 1.9 key balls with every appearance.
His stats underline a player who often progresses play with his incision or offers the team respite by drawing overzealous tackles.
Van Gaal needs this type of commitment. He needs players who offer multifaceted qualities and aren't afraid of digging deep to prove themselves. Antonio Valencia is the closest United have to a winger who effectively contributes on either side of the halfway line, but the sturdy Ecuadorian appeared to lose confidence after being isolated at right-back by David Moyes.
Cuadrado has proven he isn't fazed by such challenges and that he grows as a player on the world stage. As such, Van Gaal would be investing in a smart, explosive and improving team player.
Individuals may be asked to move out of position during the 2014-15 campaign, with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa likely to be pushed around the No. 10 spot. Some may kick up a fuss for doing so. Cuadrado would take any instructions in stride.
This kind of attitude and ability is exactly what United need right now. The squad is suffering after years of neglect, with a quick improvement needed across the board. Cuadrado can offer an attacking threat, plug defensive gaps and become a key component of Van Gaal's squad no matter how the Dutchman wishes to use him.