Name: Cristian Cuevas
Position: Left midfield
The Premier League appears to be bracing itself for a new South American arrival in the coming months, with reports carried in the English media on Monday suggesting that Chile Under-20 midfielder Cristian Cuevas is close to sealing a move to join Chelsea. Quotes, sourced from the player's agent, suggested that progress was finally being made regarding a much anticipated move, which follows a long-standing dalliance between club and player.
- Chelsea in 'advanced' talks with Cuevas
Mauricio Valenzuela, the representative concerned, confirmed previous reports that the West London side have indeed been monitoring his client's progress for some time, but also gave a strong indication that the Blues are on the verge of luring the Under-20 international to Stamford Bridge in the summer.
"The negotiations are very advanced with Chelsea," Valenzuela is quoted as saying in the Daily Mail. "There are still a few details, but the situation is very advanced. We have been working on this for a while, the idea is that players can leave Chile and be successful. Chelsea have been following him for a couple of years, and the offer was made due to his good performances."
So intently have Chelsea followed his progress that the 17-year-old left midfielder spent time on trial at the club's Cobham training ground last November. With his national team and club commitments taking precedence, Cuevas was only able to spend a week in London on that occasion. He was, though, clearly enamoured by the club, telling El Tipografo: "The experience of the week was simply spectacular. I saw things that, in Chile, are nowhere near the level that Chelsea have. I approached the week with maturity, in order to keep improving and arrive there in the future."
That sentiment, when combined with club president Ricardo Abomohor's comments that "things will be sorted between Chelsea and O'Higgins only" had suggested that there was still a strong chance of a deal being concluded - even when reports had gone quiet on the matter. Cuevas may not have even reached double figures for first-team appearances, but "Simby" has clearly been a man on the Blues' radar for some time.
An experienced Under-20 international, Cuevas was part of the Chile side that took part in both the Milk Cup last summer and the recent South American Youth Championship. His next appointment, internationally, should now be the summer's Under-20 World Cup in Turkey. While his side found the going tough in the latter stages of the recent continental competition, they offered more than enough evidence to suggest they could challenge for honours on the world stage.
Cuevas, a stocky left-winger, was one of the side's more impressive performers in Argentina. While the likes of Nicolas Castillo, Valber Huerta and Bryan Rabello may ultimately have overshadowed his contribution, Cuevas' drive and directness from the flank was a great asset for the team. It must also be remembered that he was one of just a few 17-year-olds on show at the event.
Able to play anywhere along the left flank, or even as a defensive midfielder if required, Cuevas was used in more advanced areas by Under-20 coach Mario Salas, who utilised his pace and power to offer the side much needed width. The advantage of his presence in that role was to also offer protection to forward-thinking full-back Manuel Bravo. The plan worked particularly well in the competition's opening fixtures.
Chelsea are rumoured to view his long-term future in a deeper role on the left and, according to reports in Chile, have already made a £1.67 million offer for the player. Should they complete any deal, he would then have six months before any move is possible in which to make his first serious strides at first-team level for O'Higgins.
In moving to the English leagues, Cuevas would join international team-mates Lawrence Vigouroux (Tottenham) and Angelo Henriquez (Man Utd) in the country in what is a clear indication of the level of talent that the South American nation is beginning to export globally.
Cuevas, currently well ahead of his age-level, therefore has a big year ahead of him. There is little doubt that he will have attracted the interest of many in Europe with his excellent left-foot delivery and surging runs into the area, but it seems to be Chelsea who have moved quickest in building a relationship with the youngster ahead of his rise to prominence.
The Blues have not always covered themselves with glory with regards to youth recruitment and development but, in Cuevas, would surely possess a player with the natural ability to reach the upper echelons of the game. Development, though, is never a certainty.
No deal is complete as of yet, but all indicators suggest that the Blues would be loathed to see the Chilean slip through the net as the race to harvest South America's best young talent continues to hot up. Providing the two sides can arrange suitable recompense for his transfer, his presence at Cobham in 2013-14 would seem a nigh-on certainty.
For further discussion on any of the players featured in The Scout's Notebook, Christopher can be found on Twitter -@chris_elastico
Name: Cristian Cuevas