It was the news that Fiorentina fans had waited all summer long for. After an extended will-he-won’t-he transfer saga that linked Juan Cuadrado with a possible €40m move to Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Manchester United, it was yesterday confirmed by the club’s owner Andrea Della Valle that the player will remain at the Artemio Franchi for at least another season. With Vicenzo Montella’s side hoping to finally break into the top three, this was a timely boost on the eve of the new campaign.
After a superb 2013-14 in Tuscany and an impressive World Cup with Colombia, Cuadrado’s stock has never been higher. The tricky winger was key in the South Americans’ run to the quarter-finals in Brazil, and with international teammate James Rodriguez earning a big-money transfer to Real Madrid, it was expected that Cuadrado would also be moving on to pastures new.
Many Fiorentina supporters anticipated a nervous last few days of the transfer window, with the episode expected to drag on right up until Monday night’s deadline. Della Valle’s statement was thus extremely welcome.
Cuadrado has matured greatly over the last year or so, and alongside Mario Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi, who has recently suffered yet another knee injury, is arguably Fiorentina’s most important player. In a team that seeks to dominate possession through a technical midfield of David Pizarro, Borja Valero and Alberto Aquilani, Cuadrado is a vital tactical weapon, his direct dribbling and lightning speed helping to quicken a tempo that can otherwise be too slow. The 26-year-old is an old-fashioned winger, and his ability to stretch the play on the right opens up pockets of space in central areas for midfielders Valero and Aquilani to break into.
Cuadrado is now also more of a threat himself, adding consistency to the raw talent that has always been evident. Indeed, his final product is hugely improved, a return of 11 goals and seven assists in 32 Serie A appearances last season proof of a more efficient player than the one who frequently frustrated in his younger days at Lecce and Udinese.
With Mario Gomez back to full fitness, there is no reason why Cuadrado cannot better the latter tally in 2014-15 - the combination of the Colombian’s enhanced delivery and the German’s aerial ability could be a potentially rich source of goals for Montella’s outfit this term.
Aside from Marko Marin, Fiorentina have not made many high-profile additions in the close season, making it vital that the rest of the squad remained intact. The retention of Cuadrado has therefore fuelled a renewed optimism in Florence that a Champions League place is well within reach.
It is not just Fiorentina who should be happy with the news, though. After an early World Cup exit, the controversial election of Carlo Tavecchio as FIGC President and another fall in UEFA’s co-efficient rankings, it has been a summer to forget for Italian football. Fiorentina hanging on to Juan Cuadrado, one of Serie A’s few remaining world-class talents, is important for the entire peninsula.