I don't think Chelsea necessarily went into the January Transfer Window intending to sell Andre Schurrle but were open to the opportunity to make a sale on a player who has, on the whole, flattered to deceive. This is part of our FFP strategy going forward: buy talent at a reasonable price; assess whether said talent is good enough to start; if yes, then great; if not, then sell on at the best possible price in a season or two (what I call a "cash cow"). We'll win more than we lose with this strategy although there may be times we look longingly as a player we let go flourishes elsewhere (did we let Kevin de Bruyne go too early?).
So, where does Juan Cuadrado fit in to all of this? I'm confident that the Colombian midfielder is at Chelsea to become a first team regular rather than a "cash cow". He's 26 and in his prime footballing years, which suits our manager down to the ground. Mourinho often talks about tactical maturity and there's no doubt he prefers to work with players who are able to take on board his tactical nuances and, importantly, put them into definite practice on the pitch. One suspects this is an area where Kevin de Bruyne may have fallen down.
Back to Cuadrado, he is an authentic winger — one who is great with the ball at his feet, likes to beat players, create opportunities and chip in with goals. He's also a fantastic athlete: during Colombia's 2014 FIFA World Cup opener against Greece, for example, Cuadrado was second only to James Rodriguez (who let's face it was a man possessed in Brazil!) in terms of distance covered during the match and that was with 45 percent of Colombia's attacking play coming down their — and his — right hand side. There's no doubt his physical attributes are part of the attraction for Mourinho who loves attack-minded players to do as much tracking back as they do going forward. In fact, having played in more of a wing-back role at times during his career Cuadrado is very aware of his defensive responsibilities. He's starting to sound a little bit like Willian isn't he?
In terms of his willingness to work tirelessly for the team and not abandon his defensive work, he certainly is very Willian-esque. But it's at this point that I'm keen to make a very definite distinction. Simply put, I think Cuadrado has the potential to have much more about him going forward than our bushy-haired Brazilian. Anyone who follows me on Twitter (@everydaypundit if you fancy it) will know that whilst I recognise the vital job Willian does for the team, I often find myself frustrated by his lack of goals and assists as well as his general reluctance to just run at people and make things happen. A quick scan of the statistics shows how Cuadrado notched up 11 league goals and five assists in 32 appearances last season compared to Willian's four goals and two assists. You might argue that Willian was adjusting to a new club in a stronger league back then, but even this season — one in which Cuadrado has been supposedly "out of form" — his four goals and four assists for Fiorentina better Willian's one in each category for Chelsea. Let's not forget as well, that in a World Cup bursting with attacking flair, Cuadrado ended the tournament as the joint-top assist maker in the welcome company of Toni Kroos.
It's true that Cuadrado hasn't had quite the same impact this season as he did the last in Serie A but look how many other World Cup stars have suffered something of a post-tournament lull. Rejecting this, some have simply suggested that he's inconsistent but I think "unpredictable" in a better word to use. Whilst Willian has become relatively predictable going forward, Cuadrado maintains that element of surprise in his attacking play; he's a player that excites and a piece of tricky or a flash of pace is always around the corner. Granted it may not always come off, but it's that unpredictability that if harnessed in the right way can scare the living daylights out of defenders. It may not surprise you to discover, then, that Cuadrado is second on the list of the most fouled players across all of Europe's big five leagues this season. To put the significance of this into some perspective, our very own Eden Hazard — who is, as we know, perennially hunted down by the opposition because they fear what he can do — is fifth on that same list.
Overall, the Cuadrado deal seems to me like an excellent piece of business. We've upgraded on Andre Schurrle — effectively without paying a penny — and have got ourselves a player who will give everything for the team and who also has the potential to be a devastating force with his prime years ahead of him. As with any new signing, the hope is that he betters himself at Chelsea under Mourinho's guidance and if that forces Willian to raise his level then that's fantastic for the squad as a whole.
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Alfie Jones (@everydaypundit)