MOISES CAICEDO has been hiding a secret family turmoil while battling to live up to his billing as Britain’s most expensive footballer.
Bombs, gang violence and even an armed incursion on set during a live TV broadcast have rocked the South American country, with the shockwaves reaching all the way to Stamford Bridge.
Caicedo, who cost the Blues £100m up front with a further £15m due in add-ons, is preparing for Tuesday’s Carabao Cup semi- final second leg against Middlesbrough, with Chelsea trailing 1-0 from the first game.
But football has been the last thing on his mind in recent times, with Chelsea even forking out for security to protect their star player’s relatives during the turmoil.
Blues boss Mauricio Pochettino said: “It is true that a few weeks ago he was really worried.
“The situation is not easy. In South America it is not only Ecuador. Normally, the club cares not just for him but for everyone.
“If you have problems, the club is there to try to help us in different ways.
“If it has happened it is a good thing from the club to help the player because we need him in his best condition to compete.
“Every day we have been talking about how the situation is in Ecuador. At the moment it is good news, in his case, with his family.
Trouble in Ecuador
Ecuador went into a 60-day state of emergency on January 8.
The country is coming off its bloodiest year on record – with international figures showing 42 homicides per thousand inhabitants in 2023.
The country’s 17 million population found themselves under a curfew enforced by armed soldiers.
Citizens were restricted from moving freely and assembling, while police were allowed to enter homes without a court order.
The drastic measures came as a response to the rampant violence in Ecuador’s notorious prisons.
“I only know that the family is good and safe.
“You know very well that this could affect the performance of the player if something is going wrong with the family.
“He is OK now, he feels better. He says the situation there is not normal but it is improving and now it is more relaxed.”
The situation contains chilling echoes of Liverpool forward Luiz Diaz’s living nightmare when his parents were kidnapped by armed men on motorbikes back home in Colombia at the end of last year.
In the last 24 hours alone, police in Ecuador arrested 68 suspected gangsters who stormed a hospital to protect one of their members receiving treatment in the facility.
Nurses and doctors were taken hostage and gunfire exchanged with cops.
The unrest stems from Ecuador president Daniel Noboa’s declared war on organised crime in Caicedo’s homeland.
Even so, Caicedo, the youngest of 10 siblings, has not missed a minute of Chelsea’s last five games.
And is set to figure on Tuesday night for what Pochettino admits is the biggest match of his reign so far. For him and his players.
They trail mid-table Championship side Middlesbrough by a single goal.
The embarrassing first-leg defeat was a frosty night in every sense, with the fans venting their anger at the performance and the behaviour of the Chelsea players at the final whistle.
It is now eight games since they lost at home.
But with Armando Broja still their only fit striker, it will be tough for Chelsea.
Pochettino said: “We talk about the beauty of the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup, it’s that the inferior team can match you. Sometimes you can suffer some problems. It’s a mix but we cannot pay too much attention.
“If tomorrow we are good and we play well from the beginning and show the right attitude, the fans are going to be behind us.”
Asked straight up if this is the biggest night yet since taking charge of Chelsea back in July, Pochettino replied: “Yes, because it is access to the final.
“We need to be convincing if we are going to win. It is the opportunity to play in a final so it is the most important so far.
“I like this kind of challenge. We want to be in that situation and play in a semi-final — but for Middlesbrough it is going to be tough also. They need to defend their 1-0 lead.
“We suffered some criticism, which was good, and now it is the chance to be free and play and go and show the road to the final.
“The excitement to play this game, in a personal way, is so exciting. Because it is 90 minutes away from playing again at Wembley in a final, to have the possibility to win a title.
“I am so motivated and, of course, we try to translate to the players how good it is to play a final at Wembley.
“Some players have experience of already being in a final and we need to translate this to the younger ones about the possibility to play there, in a special place, and it is really important.
“We need to match their desire and energy. That’s the most important because we will face a team that is going to fight and be strong and have some players that can cause us problems.
“We are ready and now we need to show we are ready to go to the final.”