The winger from Colombia weaves through opponents just as a rider on a scooter does fellow commuters in rush hour on a gridlocked stretch of road. "[Luca] Toni calls me Vespa," he revealed to Il Corriere dello Sport. A twist of the throttle, a sudden burst of acceleration and vroom, Cuadrado's off. Fiorentina's right-side is their fast lane. Few can stay with him.
-James Horncastle, August, 2013; source: WhoScored
One year later, with a highly successful World Cup under his belt -- in which he tied for the tournament lead in assists with four, though shared just a bit of the limelight mostly reserved for his teammate and countryman James Rodriguez -- Cuadrado was a €50m target for the likes of Manchester United, FC Barcelona, and Bayern Munich. At the start of the summer transfer window, he was still co-owned by Udinese and Fiorentina; La Viola moved quickly to secure full rights by buying the remaining 50% of his contract for €15m. A few months later, they rewarded him with a new contract. A few months after that, Cuadrado was off to Chelsea for what basically amounts to market rate at a little over €30m, plus a few more million in potential add-ons. Not bad for a finished product.
Information in English is a bit scarce on Cuadrado. He was born in Necoclí, Colombia, a place where conquistadors landed in 1509 to found a city called San Sebastián de Urabá. He was just four years old when his father, a truck driver, was shot dead in the family home. Little Juan was hiding under the bed. Raised by his mother from then on, he devoted himself to football -- Ronaldo was his idol -- but only after finishing his schooling (and that with good grades, as she would later insist). He fancied himself a forward just like O Fenômeno, but his game was missing a crucial element: goals.
After a few years of mucking about at local sides, he finally got a break at 20 when Colombian first division side Independiente Medellín signed him. Cuadrado impressed in a midfield-wing role and a year later he was off to Europe. Udinese, famous for taking fliers on more obscure South American prospects, whisked him and his family off to Italy in the summer of 2009. His mother and his sister stayed with him step-by-step since. Unfortunately, things didn't work out brilliantly for the "poor man's Alexis Sánchez." Not at first anyway.
His arrival barely made news. Online forums that helped guide virtual Udinese through a season in Football Manager advocated an immediate sell on the "third choice" wing-back. Things weren't much better in the real world and after two seasons of bit parts and spot starts, he was loaned to Lecce. His loanee club ended up getting relegated from Serie A that season, but Cuadrado managed to make enough of a name for himself for Fiorentina to swoop in and rescue him as part of their rebuilding project. Once he pulled on the purple shirt in 2012, it all clicked into place.
"It was a sale that had to be done."
"Cuadrado is a player that has always arrived with a smile and given everything to Fiorentina - I'm happy for him because he is going to a big club."
-Vincenzo Montella; source: BBC
Juan Guillermo Cuadrado Bello will turn 27 in May. He's got 37 caps for his country. There's a foundation bearing his name in Medellín that is part football school, part family center, part foster home. By all accounts he's a humble, mature, versatile, fully developed player. And a dancing fool.