Juan Guillermo Cuadrado
- Position: Wide-forward, wing-back, attacking midfield;
- Born: Necocli, Colombia; May 1988 (age 26)
- Club: Fiorentina (2012-present);
- Former: Independiente Medellin (2008-09), Udinese (2009-12), Lecce – loan (2011-12);
- International: Colombia (31 caps 5 Goals)
- 2013-14 Serie A Stats: 31(1) apps, 11 Goals, 5 assists;
As arguably Serie A’s finest wide-player last season, the slick moving Juan Cuadrado’s growing reputation sees him on the radar of the world’s elite clubs and a central figure in Colombia’s impressive World Cup campaign.
Originally a forward, now a dazzling dribbler comfortable in a range of wide areas, Cuadrado caught the eye of Udinese whilst at Independiente Medellin. Arriving at Udine, in 2009, as a raw but talented player, he was initailly used sparingly as a right-back, before being sent out on loan to Lecce to gain experience and round out his overall game. A series of impressive displays saw Fiorentina take him on, via a co-owenership deal, in 2012.
It was at Fiorentina that Cuadrado began to develope his game further. The ideal wide-outlet for midfield wizards David Pizzaro and Borja Valero, Cuadrado opens up the pitch, carrying the ball forward and stretching defences out wide. Equally, he offers a direct threat with mazy dribbling – regularly cutting in and firing from range, as exemplified by his stunning goal in the Coppa Italia Semi-Final second-leg against his former club. There is an overlooked quality to his game too – he tracks back efficiently when needed and does the simple and appropriate things well, rather than always looking for the headline-grabbing goal himself like so many frustrating wingers that spring to mind.
At international level, he plays a crucial role for Colombia. Their deep defence (a necessity when playing 38-year-old Mario Yepes) and attacking full-backs Pablo Armero and Juan Zuniga mean that games are often stretched and high-paced. Cuadrado covers a lot of ground bringing the ball forward, skipping past challenges in order to bring the forwards into the game, creating space and goal scoring opportunities. He’s a perfect foil for James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao.
His performances in Columbia’s run to the Quarter Finals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were much lauded. Capable of playing for any of Europe’s top teams, due to his outstanding ability and tactical versatility, where he goes from here will be interesting. Barcelona, having already signed Ivan Rakitic under new boss Luis Enrique, have been heavily linked – supposedly with an eye on replacing Dani Alves at right wing-back. Fiorentina, however, are understandably reluctant to sell and will seek a hefty fee if his departure becomes a likelihood.
With smooth dance moves, and even smoother skills, Juan Cuadrado is a star on the rise.