While the January transfer window has been very quiet thus far, there have been persistent rumors that a pair of Chelsea players could be leaving the club. There's supposedly interest from Germany in bringing Andre Schurrle back to his homeland, while Italian clubs are believed to be interested in taking Mohamed Salah away on loan.
While one or both of those particular moves might make sense on their own, in the context of Chelsea's season, neither of them seems overly likely. As Jose Mourinho rightly pointed out, a team competing on four fronts with a relatively small first team squad can't sell for the sake of selling in January, unless a replacement is found who can step in immediately.
Inevitably, Chelsea were then linked to Fiorentina's Juan Cuadrado, which really shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Cuadrado has impressed on both the club and international stage, and despite recently signing an extension with the Serie A side, is believed to want a chance to test himself at one of Europe's largest clubs. He'd be relatively affordable, is in the prime years of his career, and isn't cup tied in any competition in which Chelsea are currently competing. While most papers are citing Chelsea's interest in the player based on the exit rumors and some old Mourinho love, noted gun-jumper Tancredi Palmeri has decided to one-up the rest of the world:
Chelsea's 27m€ bid for Cuadrado have been rejected— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) January 21, 2015
Chelsea to resume new meeting for Cuadrado in next 24 hours— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) January 21, 2015
While Palmeri is almost certainly making things up (again), a bid for the versatile Colombian would make all sorts of sense for Jose Mourinho's side. Unlike the rushed purchase of Salah to replace Juan Mata and Kevin De Bruyne one year ago, Cuadrado would seemingly fit perfectly into Mourinho's title-chasing side. The 26-year old may not immediately step into Chelsea's starting unit, I think he'd be a worthwhile target regardless.
So what is it about the Fiorentina man that makes me think he'd fit right in at Chelsea? First, his versatility is a huge asset,and given the way Mourinho often changes shape as the match dictates, his ability to comfortably play anywhere from fullback to striker to central midfielder would be something the Portuguese boss would love. His best position is almost certainly the right flank though, which is likely the position he'd play most often for the Blues. He has electric pace, plays a physical style, can dribble and cross effectively, and has really improved his finishing in the past two years.
In terms of style, Cuadrado brings the physicality and workrate of Willian to the table and combines it with the directness of Andre Schurrle. While he works every bit as hard without the ball as our Brazilian on the right, he's not the elite defender that Willian is at present. With the ball, he's not afraid to try a difficult pass, long range shot, or take defenders on with a dribble. That does lead to a frustrating amount of turnovers, but also some pretty fantastic offensive numbers coming from the right. In that sense, he reminds me an awful lot of Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez.
While everything Cuadrado has shown thus far makes him seem like a perfect target for the Blues, there is a bit of risk involved with any transfer of this nature. Serie A is still one of the better leagues in Europe, but it's quality at present isn't anywhere near that of the Premier League. He hasn't played Champions League football with FIorentina, and we all know what sort of clubs you typically see in the Europa League. He has tasted success at the international level, but we should all know that's never been a great way to judge how players will perform at the elite club level.
Regardless of the risks involved, if the Blues have the opportunity to swap Juan Cuadrado for either of Andre Schurrle or Mohamed Salah, it's an opportunity they'd be foolish to pass up, even if it costs them a good bit of money to do so. Cuadrado seems a clear upgrade to Schurrle even on Andre's better days, and it has been a while since we've seen on of those from the German. He's also a very different player than Willian on the right, and would give Mourinho additional ways to add to the attack without sacrificing defensive workrate. If Chelsea can bring the Colombian to Stamford Bridge this January, they'd improve an already formidable squad immensely.