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Why are two giants in world football, Barcelona and Manchester United interested in signing a 26 year old winger...

Once a skinny boy and the son of a truck driver, Juan Guillermo Cuadrado hailed from a town with no native football team and only a beach to show off. However, he's now on the radar of two of the biggest clubs in world football. Leave it to football to turn the fortunes of a raw talent so dramatically. 

After a fantastic display in the World Cup where he helped his team to the quarter-finals, notching up a goal and 3 assists in the process, Cuadrado is a wanted man. Although overshadowed by his compatriot, James Rodriguez and his big money move to Spanish giants Real Madrid, the tricky winger was as much a reason for his country's great showing as his more illustrious counterpart. 

The World Cup is often an opportunity for any player to prove his worth on the biggest stage. Another success story is that of Keylor Navas who just secured a dream move to the Santiago Bernebeu after a splendid display between the sticks for Costa Rica. 

Even before Cuadrado's displays in Brazil, the 26 year-old was in splendid form for Fiorentina leading them to Europe yet again. Cuadrado's introduction to Italy had been with Udinese where he was often deployed in full-back positions and failed to get enough playing time. Loaned out to Lecce, he came into his own, dazzling the fans with his quick footwork and technical ability. Although Lecce were relegated, Fiorentina were interested in the Colombian. On loan from Udinese still, before the Viola finally bought his full rights this season, Cuadrado finished with 5 goals and 6 assists in 2012-13, taking his team to a creditable 4th placed finish before massively accelerating in the last season, both in terms of performance and value to the team.

The 2013-14 season, as the statistics show, was indeed the announcement that the boy from Neccoli had ultimately arrived on the big scene. With injuries to both Mario Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi, it was the Viola No. 11 who became the talisman for the team. It started off with a demonstration of one of the most potent weapons in his repertoire, his blistering pace that he unleashed in a breathtaking goal on the counter-attack in the 4-2 thrashing of eventual Scudetto winners, Juventus. This also demonstrated his unselfishness in front of goal as in the final minutes, he neatly put in a through ball towards Rossi to tap in instead of gunning for glory.

That was just the start as teams began to fear the 'pocket dynamo' on the right. Not afraid to take on his man and beat him, often multiple times to the point of humiliation, Cuadrado's amazing dribbling ability was always at the forefront of his game even overshadowing his pace. In over 30 appearances, he averaged 3.7 successful dribbles per game in the Serie A, a league with the reputation of having no nonsense defenders.

Pace, dribbling and acceleration - three very important tools in a winger's arsenal. The burst of acceleration that he generates is matched by very few as he leaves the defender trailing in a split second. His raw physicality means he's not easily shaken off the ball, which is an added bonus especially in the Premier League. 

His technical ability serves to compliment his physical attributes as well. Registering 11 goals and 5 assists last season, he was more than capable of shooting from outside the box. Although he would look more to cut in than cross, he did manage to drill in 68 crosses in the season and created almost two clear cut chances in every game. 

He boasts a workman-like attitude in spite of his flair and technical excellence, possibly a result of playing as a full-back in his early days with Independente Medelin which instilled in him a great sense of positioning and knowing when to track back, which most modern wingers lack. Being the team player that he is, he also managed to have a 68% tackle winning rate in addition to 12 clearances last season. 

The ability to perform as an attacking wing back is a dream proposition for Louis van Gaal and his new look 3-5-2 playing Manchester United. It also suits the usual attack-minded nature of the full backs at Camp Nou, with Dani Alves the perfect example, a man that Cuadrado is likely to replace. 

The statistics speak for themselves and a boy from Colombia who failed to notch up a single appearance for a second division club in his native country is now on the verge of a move that only a few players can dream of, and rightly so.

 

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