Jose Mourinho’s ability to buy character and avoid buying “characters” has served him well across 15 years of management, and everything about his latest acquisition, Juan Cuadrado, says he has done it again.
If the player credentials – quick, versatile, energy levels off the scale – fit the Mourinho prototype, the personal traits do so even more. Loyal, responsible and relentless is how the Colombian is described by those who have seen his rise to become a Chelsea player for £23.3m.
“He promised to never let me down and he never has,” says his mother Marcela Bello. The two share a bond even greater than that between most mother and sons because when Cuadrado’s father, Guillermo, was shot dead when the boy was just four, his mum was left to bring him up alone.
The family lived in the town of Necocli and, with paramilitaries on the streets, shoot-outs were not unusual. It had been drummed into him that he should run and hide under his bed whenever he heard shots and on the fateful day he followed those instructions, but when he emerged he had to be told that his father, a truck driver, had been an innocent fatality.
It was his mother who took him to the safer region of Apartado, where he played for the city’s Manchester Futbol Club. There he was spotted by Deportivo Cali scout Nelson Gallego, who oversaw his development until he debuted in Colombia with Independiente de Medellin and moved to Italy at 21.
Giuseppe Calabrese of Italian daily La Repubblica says of his time in Serie A: “On the pitch he became the symbol of Fiorentina. The club had no choice but to sell him when the buyout clause was met but no one wanted him to go. Off the pitch you didn’t hear much from him. He stayed at home with his mother and young sister. But on the pitch he became the team’s most important player.”
Cuadrado will bring girlfriend Melisa Botero to London, with his mother and younger sister staying in Italy until the end of the school year. But next season Marcela will want a seat at Stamford Bridge. “I’m always there in the front row,” she told Colombia’s Caracol Radio.
There will, though, be questions to be answered on the pitch: doubters say he is too lightweight and could be pushed off the ball; his supporters say defenders will need to catch him first. But regarding his ability to make things work there are no doubts. He grew up playing for Manchester Futbol Club in Colombia, on 18 April he will be playing against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
Has the Spanish FA cropped grassroots?
Spain’s triple crown of two European Championships and one World Cup between 2008 and 2012 was built on the harvest of home-grown youth. A golden generation to bring credit to the army of kids’ coaches working, often for free, in the youth systems of the nation’s football clubs. How crushing it will be if it turns out that the Spanish FA has been short-changing the very grassroots football that gave birth to its greatest triumphs.
The FA’s president, Angel Maria Villar, has failed to comply with Spain’s Ministry for Sport and its independent auditors, who want to know why they are unable to account for €8m (£6m) of government grants supposedly destined for the running and infrastructure of grassroots football.
According to the newspaper Diario AS there are other discrepancies in Villar’s FA. He has held the post since 1987 and is an ally of Sepp Blatter. His reign has coincided with the team being dragged around the globe on a tour of lucrative friendlies, and yet the latest audit shows a 25 per cent drop in income from 2012 to 2013. Blatter has spoken of Villar as a possible successor. We are about to find out if he has the credentials.Reuse content