It’s now or never for former Juventus wingback Juan Cuadrado to prove himself at Inter Milan as an injury crisis mounts.
This is highlighted in today’s print edition of Rome-based newspaper Corriere dello Sport, via FCInterNews.
Cuadrado’s arrival at Inter in the summer certainly came as a shock considering the Colombian’s eight-year association with the Nerazzurri’s bitter rivals Juventus.
But setting aside that aspect, the 35-year-old’s signing made a fair bit of sense on the pitch.
Inter already had Denzel Dumfries and Matteo Darmian as high-level right-wingback options.
However, Cuadrado gives the team a different kind of option in the role.
The ex-Chelsea, Fiorentina, and Lecce man may not have the stamina and physicality or defensive attributes of either Dumfries or Darmian.
But Cuadrado certainly offers greater technical quality than either.
There have been few crossers of the ball in Serie A, or in all of Europe, as proficient as the Colombian over the past decade or so.
Therefore, Cuadrado’s arrival gave Inter’s squad a different dimension to unlock matches.
And coming in on a free transfer with relatively low wages meant that there was little risk involved for the Nerazzurri.
Now Or Never For Juan Cuadrado At Inter
So far this season, when Cuadrado has been on the pitch, he has not disappointed in terms of his undoubted quality.
The 35-year-old’s assist for Marcus Thuram against Napoli was only the latest of several pinpoint deliveries from the right flank that he has put into the box in an Inter shirt.
But all of those have come in substitute appearances.
Fitness problems have restricted Cuadrado to playing from the bench. The 35-year-old has not yet started a match for Inter as he has dealt with persistent tendon problems.
So far this season that hasn’t really been a problem for Inter.
Dumfries and Darmian have just about held down the right-wingback role.
The physical robustness of those other players has meant that Cuadrado has been essentially a luxury option for Inter to have.
But that won’t exactly be an option for the next couple weeks.
Dumfries is out of action for a few weeks after picking up a thigh problem against Napoli.
And Darmian won’t exactly be able to cover for the Dutchman all the time.
The Italian international also has pressing duties in the back three whilst Benjamin Pavard is out injured. The Frenchman still won’t be back for another couple weeks.
One of the main reasons Inter signed Cuadrado in the summer was to allow Darmian to play mainly as a defender rather than also having to regularly back up Dumfries on the flank.
And with Pavard as well as Stefan de Vrij on the sidelines, defense is where Darmian is needed.
So now it’s on Cuadrado to step up.
The Colombian certainly has the quality and experience to do so. But the question is whether he’ll have the fitness.
And it’s no longer a hypothetical question for the future. For Cuadrado, it is now or never.