They are a ubiquitous presence on all routes to and from a Serie A stadium on matchday. Buzzing in and out of traffic, they swarm around cars and buses with the high-pitched hum of engines being thrashed into giving their maximum effort. In the streets around the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence, however, there is only one Vespa that really matters.
Watching him play, it is not hard to see how Juan Guillermo Cuadrado picked up the nickname. His acceleration, control and ability to change direction would be the envy of even the most souped-up scooter. Little wonder he has acquired a price-tag worthy of a top-of-the-range racing machine.
It seems to be the fate of any player making their mark with Fiorentina that they will be the subject of transfer speculation. Last season it was the Stevan Jovetic saga which hogged the headlines, this season it is the Colombian speedster. A string of impressive displays at the World Cup has only piqued even more interest in him. But what would any potential suitor have to pay and what kind of footballer would they be acquiring?
The transfer fee question is probably the easier to answer. Fiorentina have, to all intents and purposes, bought him in installments from Udinese. He first came on loan with a right to buy one “half” of the player. They completed the acquisition of the remaining “half” earlier this summer. In total, they are reckoned to have spent about €21 million (£17 million) to buy him outright. Any sale, therefore, could only be concluded at somewhere above that figure - most likely about double it.
And is he worth such a lofty sum? The Tuscan club clearly believe so as they have effectively made him the most costly acquisition under the ownership of Tod’s shoe supremos Andrea and Diego Della Valle. Their summer investment in him is either building an incredible forward line for the future - along with Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gomez - or a case of speculating to accumulate. Either way, it looks a pretty shrewd move.
Cuadrado was one of Serie A’s star performers last season and his displays with the national team have only enhanced his reputation. Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Barcelona have been mentioned as potential purchasers. And, when huge money is involved, it is almost impossible for a middle-tier club like the Viola to say no.
Versatility is one key element of his make-up. A breakdown of last season on the Who Scored website reckons he played in no fewer than nine different positions. He featured right across the front-line along with most central and right-sided midfield roles. There were even a couple of occasions when he stepped in as a makeshift right back.
There is little doubt, however, that he is better closer to goal. When put on defensive duties he is still prone to the odd blunder - most notably in setting up Paul Pogba’s goal in an epic 4-2 win over Juventus in Florence. But, when pushing forward - as he did later in that same game - he becomes pretty irresistible.
His pace is searing, particularly from a standing start, and he loves to dribble. Sometimes that can take him down the odd dead-end but under Vincenzo Montella he has started to eliminate that aspect of his play. If he doesn’t beat his man then he does, more often than not, win a free-kick. The sight of him being felled but some frustrated defender has been a common one during his time in purple.
That willingness to take on an opponent means he is often in a great position to deliver an assist - he has four so far in the World Cup - but his shot selection has also improved. There was a time when the sight of one of his thumping strikes flying over the crossbar or wide of goal was pretty commonplace. Nowadays, he seems to have got his eye in and they are much more often of a goalbound nature. And, when he hits them, they do - in football parlance - stay hit.
Indeed, towards the end of the last Serie A campaign, with Gomez and Rossi either injured or just recovering, he was used as an out and out front man with pretty impressive results. Playing through the middle put him into more congested areas but also meant his free-kicks were won in even more dangerous positions or his dribbling could land him a better view of goal. More than half of his 11 league goals last year came in a late rush in the final seven fixtures. It helped to convince Fiorentina, not that they needed much persuading, that they should spend big to try to keep hold of him.
He looks at his best when given such freedom to rove across the attacking third. Montella has said as much in interviews when asked about the player. He tries to free him up as much as possible from defensive duties - an area Cuadrado recognises is not his strongpoint. When allowed to think only of attack, he proved one of his team’s most regular matchwinners last year.
Adaptability to La Liga does not look to be much of an issue, but the English Premier might prove a slightly tougher ask. Many of the free-kicks he wins might not be given which could, in the short-term at least, prove frustrating for both player and any potential owner. The flipside to that, however, is that he would surely flourish in a league where less attention to defensive detail is generally given than in Italy. With time and space to attack defenders, he could prove a truly lethal weapon in any club’s armoury.
All of this information comes, of course, with the caveat that he might just stay put. At 26, he is at one of those crossroads ages in a player’s career. He could leave the Florentine club and its large South American contingent behind for a bigger name but that doesn’t guarantee success. Perhaps a little chat with Stevan Jovetic - yet to make a major impact at Manchester City - might be advisable before he decides to head north.
The Viola would have had stronger credentials to keep him if they had won a slot in the Champions League last season, of course. The attractions of another Europa League campaign might not appeal and, unless they strengthen further, they don’t look like genuine Scudetto contenders. A switch to a team with real title aspirations - and the huge pay packet that provides - might just prove irresistible. Only time will tell where this thrilling Vespa will be parked in a few months’ time.