Forget Salah, Sign Cuadrado: Scouting Report On The Colombian Liverpool Need
With the BBC reporting that Chelsea's sneaky move for Salah is all done and dusted, we reckon Liverpool should turn their attentions to Arsenal-target Fiorentina's roving winger Juan Cuadrado - especially as the winger is equally adept at right full-back, a position which looks vacant given Johnson's long term injury. We got Italian football expert Richard Whittle to run his expert eye over the Italian's credentials just before Christmas and they're as relevant now as ever...
Juan Cuadrado is a rare commodity in that he can play the full length of either touchline. However, the dazzling Fiorentina dribbler has been used predominately down the right flank and from there he has led the Viola’s charge towards a top-three spot in Serie A.
In any other era, the 25-year-old Colombian would be very much in the mould of the out-and-out winger, hugging the touchline, turning on a bit of wizardry against a bamboozled full-back before whipping in a telling cross from the byline.
In Vincenzo Montella’s 3-5-2 formation, the South American has had to adapt his style or risk becoming a luxury so he has found himself employed more as a wing-back with duties to track back and help out in defence. Not that this role has hindered his mazy runs from deep and certainly he has become a dangerous weapon for the Viola on the counter-attack.
When new signing Joaquin has been given an opportunity, usually as a second-half substitute such as in the thrilling comeback win over Juventus recently, Cuadrado has moved seamlessly to the left side where he plays further forward although with a tendency to cut in onto his right foot.
Not only does he possess explosive pace and stamina to go with all that trickery, but there is confidence in going for goal although at times his shooting can be somewhat wayward. There have been two goals so far this season to go with his five last term but his real strength is creating chances for others or at least drawing opponents to him with his darting runs to open space for his team-mates.
Steady progress at Udinese whom he joined from Independiente Medelin in 2009, was followed by a loan spell at Lecce who were struggling in the top flight.
It was under coach Serse Cosmi that the then 23-year-old was given the freedom to operate wherever he wanted and there was no doubt that even though the side from Puglia were relegated at the end of the 2012 season, Cuadrado had done enough to impress Fiorentina and Montella, who saw him as the perfect piece in his rebuilding of the Tuscans’ on-field ambitions.
With Udinese always keen to sell on a promising talent, a loan season was turned into a permanent move in the summer after suitably impressing in his first campaign in Florence.
That progress at times has run into a few problems – the first was a combustible temperament that has led to a number of suspensions more for backchat than physical malice and accusations that he is at times too keen to tumble over an outstretched leg rather than stay on his feet.
He is currently at the centre of something of a storm over his recent sending-off against Napoli where he was booked for diving twice – the first looked to be a case of tripping over fresh air but a beautifully-timed body swerve inside the area definitely seemed to have brought contact from Gokhan Inler’s boot.
It may have been a case of the referee feeling that having thrown himself to the ground in dramatic fashion already it was another desperate attempt to gain an advantage and thus he pulled out a second yellow card.
Having said that it was only his second red card in his career in Italy and it will not deter him from running at defenders although he may want to curb that desire to seek contact where there is none - and what a more dangerous player he would be if he took note of the way the likes of Leo Messi attempt to remain upright when they are on the move at pace into a forest of flailing opposition legs.
It is plain to see why Arsenal would be interested in such a talented wide-man who is willing to cover back and like Philippe Coutinho at Liverpool he could be more of a threat going forward in the Premier League where opponents do not stand off so much as in Italy and opportunities to escape into open space are more common.
There is no doubt that with his pace, skill and stamina, the flying Cuadrado is ready for the big stage and that could come before he appears for Colombia at the World Cup this summer if Arsenal make a January move.
Follow Richard on Twitter, @RichWman