By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
It didn’t take long for word to spread about Juan Quintero. He had barely been on Italian shores before there was a buzz around the country’s sports bars about the young Colombian. Those who had seen him were describing in great details some of the things he can do with a ball at his feet. Those who hadn’t were begging for their questions to be asked. “I’ve heard he’s got immense skill, is it true?”
Arriving in the Bel Paese isn’t always the easiest thing in the world for a young footballer, and Quintero had every excuse to find it about as difficult as anyone before him.
His new team, Pescara, were newly-promoted and had lost their coach and the four players who did most for them in their successful Serie B push of the previous season. They struggled to come to terms with the top flight from day one. He was also the only Colombian in the squad, and, being only 19 at the time, that must have taken plenty of adapting to, especially having never played outside of his homeland before that point.
In his favour, though, was the experience he’d built up in Colombia. Born in Medellin, he was snapped up by Envigado at the age of 11, and by the time he was 16 he had become a first teamer. After three seasons in the Primera, he moved on to local club Atletico Nacional, who Pescara then paid €2.5 million in the summer of 2012. With 75 games in four seasons in his homeland under the belt, he was not exactly a rookie, but still the Delfino couldnt have expected him to settle so quickly.
Yet somehow, he immediately began to pull up trees. After catching the eye in a sub appearance on the opening day against Inter, then setting up a goal in the 3-2 defeat to Sampdoria, Quintero quickly made his mark. His goal against Bologna on matchday four, in only his second start, earned his new side their first point of the season. It was the execution that really stood out though, with his dipping, curling free-kick finding the inside netting at Federico Agliardi’s near post. The talk about him only increased from there, with big-name clubs suddenly linked here, there and everywhere. He also earned a first senior cap for his country, a 45-minute appearance against Cameroon in October.
MIDFIELDER | PESCARA
And to an extent the hype is warranted. The 20-year-old is supremely talented with a football in his possession. Few can manipulate the ball in tight spaces as he does, and his eagerness to move it quickly to team-mates in space is to be admired. As for his set-pieces: he has a rare knack of coming within millimetres of the top corner of the net whenever he aims for it.
His lack of stature undoubtedly provides a question mark, with his 168cm, 62kg frame being dwarfed by the vast majority of players at the top end of the sport, but if he can overcome the rough-house tactics that have begun to be a feature of opponents’ marking, then he could well make the step up to become a true top-class player. He also has displayed a trend of falling out of games for long spells, but there’s no reason why he can’t develop in this regard over time. And time, like talent, is something he has in abundance.
He hasn’t had it all his own way recently though, having played only 17 minutes in December as new boss Cristiano Bergodi looks for the right blend to get his team back on track, but there’s every chance he’ll return from the South American Under-20 Championship and regain his spot in the first XI once more.
Unless he’s sold to one of the clubs credited with an interest in him, that is. While it is unlikely that he would get into Juventus’ team anytime soon, and even the Inter starting line-up may be a touch beyond his reach right now, one thing that Serie A clubs are very good at is snapping up players early and then having them develop at their behest. There’s no reason why one of Italy’s big clubs wouldn’t be well served by signing him up and immediately loaning him back out – either to Pescara or elsewhere in the top flight.
But one thing is for certain. A player as skilful as Quintero has to be worth a punt.