Manchester United and Manchester City have been boosted in their pursuit of Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado after Vincenzo Montella criticised the Colombian star’s performance against Dinamo Minsk on Thursday.
The 26-year-old, who was linked strongly with a move to the Premier League in the summer following his impressive displays at the World Cup finals in Brazil, was subbed off after 24 minutes of the Europa League fixture due to his lack of focus.
Fiorentina suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, and after the match Montella explained why he was left with little option but to substitute the live-wire South American.
Montella explains Cuadrado substitution
"He's suspended on Sunday (against Cesena) so I tried to play him from the start,” Montella told reporters. "I saw that his mind wasn't totally on the match, so I preferred to substitute him.”
The Daily Star believe this could be a hint that Cuadrado has been mentally affected by the intense speculation surrounding his fixture over recent months - and claim that both Manchester United and City will resume their battle for the €35 million-rated Chelsea target in the New Year.
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United were the club reportedly in pole position to secure Cuadrado’s services during the summer transfer window, while local rivals Manchester City are also understood to have held talks with Fiorentina over a potential deal for the former Udinese man.
New contract and release clause
Cuadrado went some way to ending the speculation surrounding his future by signing a new five-year contract with Fiorentina in October, telling his Twitter followers: "I'm happy for the renewal. I thank my agent Alessandro Lucci, the Della Valle family, the club as a whole and in particular the President [Mario] Cognini for his availability. Forza Viola!"
But the fact Cuadrado would only sign the contract renewal once a €35 million release clause was inserted indicated that the player still had plans to leave Fiorentina in the near future.
Any interested club will need to trigger Cuadrado’s release clause, with Fiorentina not prepared to sell their prize asset at a discounted price, despite his current state of mind.