Juan Cuadrado - Player Profile

Chelsea's Cuadrado Sets Sights On Premier League Title

Personal information
Full name: Juan Guillermo Cuadrado Bello
Date of birth: 26 May 1988 (age 26)
Place of birth: Necoclí, Colombia
Height: 1.76 m
Playing position: Winger

Club information
Current team: Chelsea
Number: 23

Youth career: Atlético Uraba, Independiente Medellín
Senior career: 2008–2009: Independiente Medellín
2009–2012: Udinese 20 Appearances, 0 goals
2011–2012: Lecce (loan) 33 Appearances, 3 goals
2012–2015: Fiorentina 85 Appearances, 20 goals

One of the most feared wide men in Serie A, Colombian international Juan Cuadrado has departed Fiorentina after two and a half seasons to join English Premier League leaders Chelsea. In this week’s edition, we profile a player whose pace and electric dribbling earned him the nickname 'Vespa' (wasp) after the famous Italian scooter – and he will be expected to provide the sting in the tail for the Blues as they chase three trophies.

Born in Necocli, Colombia, in 1988, the winger progressed through the country's lower tiers before signing for Independiente Medellín in 2007. The following year he was drafted into the first team and was soon attracting glances from across the Atlantic. Udinese – a club known for their successful South American scouting – brought him to Europe in 2009, the youngster given a five-year deal.

Cuadrado spent two seasons at the Stadio Friuli, playing only 20 times in Serie A and failing to register a goal, until he was loaned out to Lecce for the 2011/12 campaign. Cuadrado found a true admirer in Lecce coach Serse Cosmi and his performances grew in quality and consistency. He claimed his first Serie A goal in November 2011, against AC Cesena, and impressed with three strikes in 33 appearances despite relegation. "When he came to Lecce, I immediately felt he was ready to break through," remembered Cosmi. "He is an irrational player but this is also his strong point. He is the kind of player that fans like to watch, but he's pragmatic at the same time." In 2012/13 he was loaned out to Fiorentina and netted five goals in 36 games to convince the Viola to make the move permanent the following summer. "Did you have a scooter yesterday? I thought you were on a Vespa up and down that flank," veteran striker Luca Toni told Cuadrado after a great display against Juventus in 2012. Cuadrado enjoyed an excellent 2013/14 campaign in Florence, notching 11 Serie A goals and three in the UEFA Europa League. A solo run and delicate lob finish became his trademark as he reached footballing maturity under coach Vincenzo Montella. The versatile Cuadrado also excelled for Colombia in their run to the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, scoring against Japan and providing four assists. He then signed a new contract with Fiorentina in October, committing himself to the Viola until 2019 – but Chelsea matched the release clause on transfer deadline day, reported to be about £26.8m. Fiorentina had been reluctant to part with their winger and club president Andrea Della Valle insisted his buyout clause had to be met. But Cuadrado couldn't hide his delight after sealing his Premier league move, telling the club's website: "I am very happy and thankful for this opportunity I’ve been given." This is a great club and honestly it is like a dream to join the Chelsea family and to know that the manager believes in me. I’m happy." The Colombian also went on to say his primary aim is to ensure his new team - currently five points clear at the top of the league - go on to win the title. "We are a big club, so winning important things," he told Chelsea's official website when asked about his targets. "Playing for this team, the league championship is I think the most important thing. As for everything else, Chelsea have big players so we want to win big things."

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 Jose 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 football. 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. 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.