MILAN, Oct 19 — Juan Cuadrado’s stunning strike for Juventus against Olympique Lyonnais offered another tantalising glimpse of a player whose natural talent has been overshadowed at times by personal tragedy and career setbacks.
Cuadrado lashed home an unstoppable shot from a seemingly impossible angle to give Juventus a 1-0 win today. “I looked up and couldn’t see anyone in the middle, so I tried to hit a missile and it worked,” he said.
The Colombia winger’s pace and trickery make him a nightmare for defenders and a delight for spectators who prefer old-fashioned South American trickery.
Yet, his career has been an uphill struggle ever since he started kicking a ball in the small town of Neocoli on the Caribbean coast.
He grew up in the Uraba region which was caught in the centre of the Colombian conflict with guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups and drug traffickers all active
His father Guillermo, a truck driver, was killed when Cuadrado was only four, caught in the crossfire of a shootout. Cuadrado was hiding under the bed at the time, as he had been told to do every time he heard gunfire.
His mother moved to another town to find work and he ended up living with his grandmother who wanted him to study.
Cuadrado would play in his underpants to avoid returning home dirty and arousing his grandmother’s suspicions that he had been playing football again.
Despite his slight frame, his talent was obvious and he got his break when he was spotted by Santiago Escobar — brother of the Colombia defender Andres who was murdered shortly after the 1994 World Cup — and given a place in the team at Independiente Medellin.
Eventually, he moved to Italy, playing for Lecce and Udinese before joining at Fiorentina where he settled well and began to make an impact.
He shone at the 2014 World Cup as he helped Colombia reach the quarter-finals, their best-ever performance, yet that became something of a double-edged sword.
His performances caught the eye of bigger clubs and signed for Chelsea the following January. But, as so often happens, he struggled to get a place in the team which already featured Oscar, Willian and Eden Hazard and was loaned to Juventus for the 2015/16 season.
The verve and the swagger returned and he helped Juventus win a fifth Serie A title, but the summer brought more problems as the loan spell ended.
Unwilling to go back to the Chelsea bench, Cuadrado pushed for a return to Juventus who agreed a three-year loan on the last day of the transfer window.
It seemed a happy ending but he struggled to get back into a new-look Juventus and reportedly walked out of a training session in late September, although the club later said it he left due to family reasons.
Those problems now seem to have been ironed out and, with three years ahead of him at Juventus plus a World Cup on the horizon in 2018, there seems every reason to believe that he can flourish and produce more memorable moments. — Reuters