Juan Guillermo Cuadrado Bello, 26 years old this past May, is the first big Fiorentina purchase of the summer. The Colombian winger has grown at an impressive rate in his two seasons in Florence while on loan from Udinese, and has already caught the world's attention with two dazzling performances at the World Cup, notching 3 assists in 2 games. Given his marked technical improvement, work ethic, and natural athletic talent, it is unsurprising that the Friulani demanded a top price for their half of Cuadrado's playing rights, but la Viola were relatively quick to pay the full asking price of 15 million Euro, setting the value of our "Vespa" at a base minimum of 30 million Euro. With the 15 million just agreed added to the 6 million Euro paid over the two years of his loan, Cuadrado is the most expensive purchase in Fiorentina's history, topping the 18-20 million Euro paid for Mario Gomez last summer. Udinese was interested in lowering the sale price in exchange for the inclusion of young on-loan Fiorentina starlets Khouma Babacar and Federico Bernardeschi, but Fiorentina wasn't interested in parting ways with the emerging Primavera talents without Vincenzo Montella first evaluating their growth during the team's summer retreat.
When asked about his confirmation as a Fiorentina player on Thursday, Juan Cuadrado was brief but to the point:
At another club with another player, this blockbuster news would be the end of his transfer saga, at the very least until the coming December. But Fiorentina are still expected to receive formal offers for Cuadrado from Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the coming weeks, and they are the kinds of clubs which could entice even the most loyal of players with gigantic contracts, Champions League play, and annual contention for their domestic league trophies. Andrea Della Valle is expected to meet with the player once he returns from the World Cup to understand what Cuadrado wants for the coming season. The "patron" ADV has already made very strong declarations to the press in the past weeks regarding the society's strong intention to retain Cuadrado for another season. Fiorentina's intention may make little difference, however, if Cuadrado wants to move on. If so, it would be the most understandable professional decision, as he is entering his prime and the offers are coming in. Whichever way the situation goes this summer, here are three things to remember:
1) This purchase was a power play by Fiorentina. Previous Viola backroom staffs would have allowed the situation to drag on, would have settled for less, would have been scared of putting the investment on the line and offered the young starlets to Udinese, or would have sold the player while still co-owned with Udinese, thus splitting the transfer fee. Instead the Florentine club acted like the "top club" they are rapidly becoming by pulling out the checkbook, paying the asking price, and taking on full responsibility for Cuadrado. As opposed to allowing the first big player's negotiations to block our summer mercato, we resolved it quickly, cleanly, and decisively. As in the Stevan Jovetic sale last season, we stated what we wanted and then got exactly that. It's exciting to see Fiorentina be a bigger player, now if we can get a new stadium deal done soon we will really start moving forward.
2) If Cuadrado goes... It won't be for a cent less than €35m. Especially if Cuadrado continues to play for Colombia like he did in the first two matches, his value on the market at the end of July will be astronomical. Fiorentina know how to drive a hard bargain for top talent and the clubs supposedly interested can certainly afford it, so the bidding may quickly get extravagant. While Montella, Fiorentina, and the fans would like him to stay, the team does require quality additions in both midfield and defense; additionally, there are already insistent links between Fiorentina and a classy potential replacement in another early World Cup star, Mathieu Valbuena. Speaking extremely hypothetically, Valbuena and two other high-quality players in positions of need could be brought in from the profits of Cuadrado's sale. Cuadrado departing would also give quite a bit of wiggle room to our accounting department as they try to balance the salaries for the coming year. It would be a heartbreaking departure, but one that could easily be turned to our immediate advantage.
3) If Cuadrado stays... Rossi - Gomez - Cuadrado. If Montella, ADV, and Florence get their way and keep Cuadrado for the coming season (perhaps with a Jovetic-like "stay one more year and then we promise you can go make millions abroad" type of deal) we could have a truly fearsome attacking trident, one I would argue to be unrivaled in Italy. This attacking trio could have been implemented at the beginning of this season, but last September we thought of Cuadrado more as a wingback in a 3-5-2 while first Gomez, then Giuseppe Rossi sustained injuries. Now our Vespa has flourished as an attacking winger, presenting Fiorentina with an almost startlingly obvious imbalanced 4-3-3 as favored by many of Europe's top sides. Rossi would play on the left wing, but drift central and deep often to combine with Borja Valero and Gomez, allowing room for the fullback to overlap; meanwhile Cuadrado would stretch the defense on the right and seek the deep ball and the byline. In addition to the tactical balance, most of our key players have had the World Cup summer off, so the team could be poised for an electric and momentum-building start to the season thanks to rested and hungry Rossi, Gomez, Borja, Gonzalo, and co. If we manage to stay healthy while Prade and Macia find some spare change (and luck) under the couch cushions for a high quality left back and a defensive midfielder, Fiorentina could really shoot for the stars in 2014-2015. Even as we are being treated to a fantastic World Cup, it's hard to not to be excited for September. Forza Viola!