Juan Cuadrado: Player Profile

Colombia’s Explosive Winger At The Top Of His Game

Personal information
Full name: Juan Guillermo Cuadrado Bello
Date of birth: 26 May 1988
Age: 26
Place of birth: Necocli, Colombia
Height: 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)
Playing position: Winger

Club information
Current team: Fiorentina
Number: 11

Youth career 
Atletico Uraba
Independiente Medellin

Senior career 
2008–2009 Independiente Medellin 32 Appearances, goals 2
2009–2012 Udinese 24 Appearances, goals 0
2011–2012 → Lecce (loan) 33 Appearances, goals 3
2012– Fiorentina 83 Appearances, goals 20

National team
2010– Colombia 31 Appearances, goals 5

A skinny right-back has been transformed into a flying winger and after a superb season in Italy with Fiorentina, Colombia’s rising star is setting the World Cup stage on fire. Juan Cuadrado has emerged into a key player for Colombia and much has been expected of the Fiorentina winger at the World Cup, and to his credit he has delivered some sublime performances.

In 2008, having just qualified for his first cedula, a national ID card given to all Colombians when they turn 18, the skinny teenager arrived at first division side Independiente Medellin during pre-season. Hailing from Necocli, a small town in northern Colombia famous for its bananas and beaches that stretch across to the Caribbean, Cuadrado was spotted playing for the local side Atletico Uraba.

He had long dreamed of moving to Colombia’s second city, Medellin, where his mother was living, but prior to joining her he had spent some time training at the second division club Rionegro before seeking his fortune in Argentina. However, that trip ended in disappointment and he had to return home having failed to find an agent who could fix up a move.

Today the Argentinean club representatives who missed the opportunity of snapping up this talented player for a big club while the youngster was in Buenos Aires must be ruing their misfortune. Cuadrado would return to Medellin before shortly leaving for Europe and becoming Colombian football’s latest gold mine.

At Independiente Medellin Cuadrado was converted into a right-back where his speed in getting down the wing, impeccable crossing ability and way of battling into the area became a key factor in Medellin’s 2008 title charge that ultimately saw the Rojo de la Montana finish the season as runners-up.

His scrawny frame and long strides had made him a fans’ favourite but he was recognised not just for his darting runs. Despite his baby face, his passing skills were at times like that of a veteran No10 and even in stadiums packed with 30,000 fans the youngster remained unfazed.

Medellin’s supporters only had a short time to enjoy Cuadrado’s performances before he was picked up by a scout who, in 2009, organised a move to Italy. Cuadrado signed for Udinese but having only made a handful of starts for the side he was soon sent out on loan to Lecce in order to acquire first-team experience.

As always his speed and agility impressed and Cuadrado became one of the stars of the 2011-2012 Salentini side, playing 33 games. Despite suffering relegation with his new club, the coveted forward took a step up when Fiorentina came in for him.

And it’s here where it all began. His time spent at Lecce was vital for Cuadrado; not only did it give him valuable experience, but he was also handed the opportunity to tweak his position into a more attacking role. Cuadrado had arrived in Italy as a right-back but in Florence he was ratified as an out-and-out winger.

What a huge waste having him bursting out from the back when he posed a much greater threat as a right midfielder or even further forward. In his new position Cuadrado blossomed and his attacking form was decisive in leading Fiorentina to successive fourth-place finishes in Serie A.

Cuadrado certainly isn’t a household name to new soccer fans, but he is already well known among fans of Italy’s Serie A. With most players, while his position is the same, his role and responsibility are somewhat different from club to country.

He’s been mainly a facilitator for Colombia, but on Fiorentina he’s a more determined scorer. He shot 3.1 times per 90 minutes for the Viola, while unleashing only once per 90 for Colombia throughout qualifying and the opening two games of the World Cup.

That, by the way, is despite shooting from an unhealthy (at best) 24.5 yards away, on average. He did score 11 goals in Italy, and three were from long range, so it’s at least possible he’s good at it.  But if you’ve watched him, it’s the dribbling that really sticks with you.

The five a game he’s trying now is a lot, but it pales in comparison with the 7.7 per 90 he tried at Fiorentina, which tied him for most in the league (minimum 1,000 minutes). And his 3.8 successful dribbles per 90 placed him second.

With all that dribbling and shooting, there’s more than enough highlight reel to slobber over. With Fiorentina, Cuadrado looks like an extremely skilled, if somewhat selfish, winger, but with Colombia he tamps down the shooting, is a little more responsible with the ball, and in general is happier to facilitate fellow stars like James Rodriguez. That’s important because Fiorentina just secured the sole rights to him and may be looking to cash in.

He has become a key player for Colombia and the head coach, Jose Pekerman, has so far managed to get the best out of him. Pekerman has used his wingers, as an explosive weapon in turning Los Cafeteros into an exciting attacking force.

The results speak for themselves and Pekerman’s tactics helped Colombia achieve their first World Cup qualification since France ’98. At 25, Cuadrado still has room to improve and this World Cup could be his big moment. Using his speed to dazzle defenders, the winger is also an opportunist in the penalty area, scoring 15 times in 42 appearances at Fiorentina last season.

Cuadrado has provided three assists in a World Cup, which is more than any other Colombian footballer. And he also scored a penalty in their 4-1 victory over Japan to help the Colombians get the maximum points from their group and a mouth-watering clash against Uruguay in the round of 16. Not bad for a skinny young kid from Colombia’s banana region who nobody had wanted to give a chance to in Argentina and who is now on the radar of Europe’s leading clubs.

Although whoever wins the race for his signature will have to pay around €30m (£24m) to Fiorentina after the Italian side made use of a right-to-buy clause with Udinese to acquire the player’s full rights for €14m. This World Cup could be his stage to prove he is worth such an outlay.