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Juan Quintero & James Rodriguez could be this generation’s Cristiano Ronaldo & Ricardo Quaresma

James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero were heading down different paths but the 2018 World Cup has brought them back together

Let’s get something clear: this isn’t a technical comparison between James Rodriguez, Juan Quintero and Cristiano Ronaldo.

This is about paths taken, chances wasted and international football’s ability to come full circle.

If football was a game of talent alone then Ronaldo would be firmly in the shadow of his international colleague Ricardo Quaresma.


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We can see you tearing up

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We can see you tearing up

Both Quaresma and Ronaldo progressed through Sporting CP’s prodigious academy, making their first-team debuts within 12 months of each other.

Both were emphatic wingers, blessed with pace and the ability to put smiles on faces with their footwork.

Both earned major European moves after just one year of senior football. For Ronaldo it was Man United, for Quaresma it was Barcelona.

But that’s where the similarities ended.

Definite Brylcreem sponsorship

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Definite Brylcreem sponsorship

Quaresma embarked on a nomadic career, at one point turning out in the UAE Arabian Gulf League for Al-Ahli before settling in Turkey with Besiktas.

Ronaldo moved from Manchester to Real Madrid for a then world-record fee, winning four Champions League trophies, four Ballon d’Or awards, two La Liga titles and a host of other team and individual honours.

But on 10 July 2016 the close friends were together at the top again when Portugal were crowned European Champions.

They’d taken different routes, wrecking a fair few motors in Quaresma’s case, but both had ended up at the same destination.

The best winger in European football and CR7

AP:Associated Press
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The best winger in European football and CR7

Two years on and there’s a similar tale to be found amongst Colombia’s squad in the careers of James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero.

Heading into the tournament Rodriguez was rightly earmarked as Colombia’s most important player, but Quintero has since emerged as the player who makes Jose Pekerman’s side tick.

It’s hard not to be captivated by the 5ft 6in playmaker. With each reverse pass he draws you in further.

The artist formerly known as Juan

AFP
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The artist formerly known as Juan

Both Quintero and Rodriguez started out at Colombian side Envigado.

Both quickly gained lofty local reputations before moving to bigger South American sides. Rodriguez joined Argentine outfit Banfield while Quintero stayed in Colombia and moved to Atletico Nacional.

Next Europe called.

While not of the calibre of clubs Ronaldo and Quaresma joined, a move from South American domestic football to Europe still represented a major step up for both Rodriguez and Quintero.

Rodriguez was signed by Porto- a club synonymous with breaking young South American talent.

Quintero joined Serie A side Pescara, where he was seen as an ideal replacement for the creativity of Marco Verratti and Lorenzo Insigne.

As with Ronaldo and Quaresma, this is where the two stories take different paths.

That’s not coming down

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That’s not coming down

Rodriguez became one of the world’s most expensive players when he left Porto for Monaco in 2013.

Just over a year later he was on the move again, joining Real Madrid in a £63million deal after starring at the 2014 World Cup.

He won back-to-back Champions League trophies but failed to earn a regular starting spot so moved on loan to Bayern Munich, winning the Bundesliga in his first season.

Quintero also earned a bigger move, leaving Pescara for Porto, but has since been loaned out to Rennes, Independiente Medellin and River Plate, for whom he only started a handful of games.

At one point he was said to be so dismayed with where his career was that he was considering becoming a music artist instead.

A career in reggaeton was calling.

But, after starring in a pre-tournament friendly against France, Quintero was handed a shot at redemption by Pekerman.

He’s taken it with both hands, although it’s been his surgical left foot that has seen him emerge as Colombia’s main man.

Now the question is, can Rodriguez and Quintero inspire Colombia to silverware as Ronaldo and Quaresma did for Portugal?

The story doesn’t stop there either. Quintero is still only 25 and will have caught the eye of travelling scouts from across the globe.

Just like Quaresma, he’s a maverick. It’s equally as plausible that he’ll follow him to Al-Ahli as it is that he’ll be pulling the strings for Barcelona.

Either way, it should be fun.