- Chelsea set to unveil the £26m signing of Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina before Saturday’s match against Manchester City
- Colombia international to undergo medical and gain international clearance ahead of Monday’s transfer deadline day
- 26-year-old midfielder bade farewell to his team-mates at La Viola in private on Friday
- Mohamed Salah and Andre Schürrle heading for the Stamford Bridge exit to make way for new arrival
Ever since Jose Mourinho lamented two points dropped against Southampton in last year’s final round of Premier League fixtures, things haven’t quite gone according to plan for Chelsea.
The Portuguese manager described referee Anthony Taylor’s decision to wave away what he deemed a clear foul by Matt Targett on Cesc Fabregas as a ‘scandal’, incurring a £25,000 fine earlier this week from the FA, with whom his relationship is at a new low after Diego Costa’s three-match ban for violent conduct was upheld by an independent disciplinary panel on Friday.
Mourinho’s plea that the incident involving Costa and Liverpool’s Emre Can was ‘completely accidental’ fell on deaf ears, and subsequently he has given the media the Marshawn Lynch treatment, snubbing the obligatory press call ahead of Saturday’s showdown with Manchester City.
Chelsea may have lost that battle – and the repercussions of Costa’s absence will be known after he has served his suspension – but they won the war on Tuesday, navigating a way past Liverpool to set up a re-run of the 2008 League Cup Final against Tottenham in a month’s time.
That goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was named man of the match in both legs will not have gone unnoticed by the media-shy Mourinho, and with last weekend’s surprise FA Cup home defeat to League One Bradford City adding to the recent 5-3 loss to Spurs, it is not surprising that he has looked to offload one of the culprits and in turn strengthen his squad before Monday’s transfer deadline.
Rather than ramping up the siege mentality on Friday, whereby no one likes them but they don’t care, the club and its manager did what they have done so spectacularly during the Abramovich years and spent.
Sky Italia broke the news yesterday that following negotiations undertaken by his agent, Alessandro Lucci, Fiorentina’s Juan Cuadrado will take a 7am private jet to London today for a medical and sign a lucrative four-and-a-half-year deal with the West London club.The winger will be present at the Premier League leaders’ match against champions Manchester City this evening before flying back to Italy, where he will await international clearance.
Cuadrado has long been in Mourinho’s sights, since before his stellar performances for Colombia at last summer’s World Cup in Brazil, where he registered more assists – four – than any other player, and he will be in line to make his debut for his new team at Aston Villa next Saturday.
Vincenzo Montella, the Florence-based club’s manager, has been quoted as saying: “I want to be honest. It [the sale of Cuadrado] was something that had to be done. As a coach I’m sorry because technically he is such a good player but the club has made the right decision.”
Mohamed Salah will head in the other direction without demanding a fee, allowing Chelsea to secure Cuadrado’s services for £23.3m – a compromise on the £26.1m buy-out clause La Viola were demanding.
Montella admitted that he is not quite getting a like-for-like player in Salah, who had been limited to 13 appearances with the Blues after arriving a year ago from Basel, but as important in paving the way for the player switch is the imminent £23m departure of Andre Schürrle to Wolfsburg.
Mourinho’s second coming has been every bit as punctuated by pragmatic performances as his first, but his transfer dealings have been far more astute, making this late shuffling of his cards all the more intriguing.
Always one to make bold decisions in his managerial career, Mourinho will hope this is another case of acting swiftly when it mattered: what he described as a ‘disgraceful’ loss to Bradford was avoided against Liverpool more by luck than design, and his move for Cuadrado – who will be available for Champions League duty – is indicative of a conviction in a starting eleven seldom tinkered with until now that has been tempered by events of the last month.
While it was in the January transfer window last year that Mourinho approved the return of Nemanja Matic at Stamford Bridge, it was believed that the Chelsea manager would not use this month to do business, but rather earmark players to pursue in the summer.
“For me that is the perfect situation,” Mourinho said last November. “I don’t want people to leave. I don’t want people to come in. We started our project this way, and I’d like to go until the end. If other teams do it in January, good for them.
“No problem for me. It will not be something I will use, saying: ‘These guys spend £30million more.’ They can spend what they want and what they can. Hopefully everything goes okay and we have no emergency needs for January.”
The slightly haphazard nature of his side’s recent showings – the 5-0 demolition of Swansea aside – would hardly class as an emergency in the minds of most Premier League managers, but for Mourinho, with his side hoping to open up an eight-point lead over their nearest rivals at Saturday tea-time, his decision to seek and obtain a player on the eve of the deadline speaks volumes of his refusal to believe that anything is decided by the end of January.
With the majority of Cuadrado’s transfer fee being met by Schürrle’s return to Germany, this is the latest episode in Chelsea’s attempts to comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules in their transfer dealings.
The next question on everyone’s lips is where the new recruit – nicknamed ‘Vespa’ during his time in Tuscany due to his ability to weave in and out of defenders like the scooter on a busy Italian street – fits into Mourinho’s well-established 4-2-3-1 system at the Bridge.
It would be mischievous to say ‘very well’, given his previous in the art of diving. Last season, the former Udinese player was sent off in a Serie A game against Napoli for receiving two yellow cards – both for simulation.
And given how Colombia’s national team endeared itself to the footballing world as much through their goal celebrations as their results out in Brazil, Cuadrado will feel right at home dancing the cha-cha alongside Ramires, Oscar and Willian down Fulham Road.
Only time will tell; the uncharacteristically meek Mourinho has chosen not to make a song and dance about freshening up his squad at the eleventh hour, but nor has he left his search for a third Premier League title to chance.
Who is Chelsea new-boy Juan Cuadrado?
Gerardo Lemos, Colombian International Sports Correspondent for several South American outlets:
Cuadrado is a very versatile forward with explosive speed. This would be really important for Mourinho’s team. Currently, Chelsea plays a 4-2-3-1 formation and Mourinho needs a player with the nimble footwork of Cuadrado behind Diego Costa.
He’s the kind of player that likes to set short and long term goals both collectively and as an individual. He can assist, and he can score and more importantly, he is a very coachable footballer.
His arrival will bring that unique spice the Cafeteros have and everybody was able to see during the World Cup in Brazil. In addition, he will not only bring new options in the attack, he will also learn from Mourinho and his team mates.
Cuadrado is not just a an offensive player, but he also provides defensive cover. In the last World Cup Qualifiers, he showed his defensive attributes and I’m sure Chelsea will be happy with his work ethic tracking back, especially Ivanovic on the right side.