Radamel Falcao: Contemporary to Ronaldo and Messi

Two years back Radamel Falcao walked into a room in Madrid to greet a cluster of schoolboys flown over from Colombia to meet their hero. One of them, a 12-year-old boy who had built his own museum dedicated to the player back at home in Bogotá, was so overcome to see his icon with his own eyes that he fell to his knees and wept. Falcao picked him up, sat him down, patted his head, and held his hand while they spoke.

The boy was weeping and insisted earnestly that

“Your leg will get better,”

“God will make it stronger. I am not just saying it so you’ll play in the World Cup but for you.”

Hearing those words from the boy, Falcao was moved to tears himself. The boy touched each of Falcao’s knees and said,

“I’m telling you, this leg and this leg will be strong.”

When Radamel Falcao was a child, he would watch his father toiling for a series of sides of ever-decreasing quality and it upset him.

“I watched my dad play in defence and it disappointed me, I wanted him to go up and score a goal.”

Radamel García once scored a famous goal against Millonarios in Bogotá, but he was more generally known for two things: his aggression and his religious devotion.

His father, perhaps, shared a sense that football held something more than clattering opposing strikers, and hoped his son would achieve it. Although he called his son Radamel, he also gave him the middle name Falcao after the great Brazil, Internacional and Roma midfielder. Quickly, though, it became apparent that Radamel Falcao García Zárate was not much like either of the players he was named after: he was a centre-forward and a very good one.

The Early Debut

His talent emerged rapidly. Falcao was only 13 years and 199 days old when he made his debut for Lanceros Boyacá against Deportivo Pereira in the Colombian second flight in August 1999. At 14, he played seven times for the club but even then, Falcao knew his future lay away from Colombia; a fact of the economics of Colombia and of football in general.

His father had been a regular at the Bogotá side Independiente Santa Fe, but as age sapped his ability he moved to Unión, which is why Falcao was born on the Caribbean coast. When he was four, the family moved again, this time to Venezuela, where the national sport is not football but baseball. After taking a bang to the nose playing football, Falcao switched his attention to baseball and apparently showed great promise, his pace from a standing start a great asset when running between bases.

But in 1995, with his father’s career over, the Garcías returned to Bogotá and Falcao turned his attention back to football. He trained after school with a local side where his finishing caught the attention of Silvano Espindola, an Argentinian friend of his father. A former Unión player and devout Christian, he ran a football school that also had a religious aspect, looking to produce not just good players but good men. Whether they succeeded or not with Falcao is almost impossible to judge, but Tor-Kristian Karlsson, the former chief executive of Monaco, describes Falcao as the humblest player he has ever met.

Typically though, Falcao’s life wasn’t just about football. He also enrolled at the university in the district of Palermo to study journalism. It meant not only that he would have had a fall-back if the football did not work out for him, but also that he developed a circle of friends outside of the game. He was not just caught up in the bubble as so many of his team-mates were, he had that most elusive of attributes: perspective.

His father’s example had shown him that a footballer could not be sure of staying in the same place for any length of time, but Falcao soon learned for himself that the career can be precarious. He was selected for Colombia Under-17s to play at the World Cup in Finland in 2003, but ruptured ankle ligaments shortly before the tournament.

By 2009, Falcao had scored 34 goals in 90 games for River, who had reportedly turned down a bid of £9m for him from Milan. By the following year, though, hard up and having been eliminated from the Copa Libertadores in the group stage, River were forced to listen to offers and sold him to Porto for £3.5m. A week earlier, Falcao had almost joined Benfica, only for them to refuse to pay an additional £600,000 to complete the deal.

Porto’s golden Era and the most Expensive player for a la liga club

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Benfica were soon made to regret their caution as Falcao scored in each of his first four games for Porto. He went on to finish as the second highest scorer in the league and to win the cup. The following season was Porto’s golden year under André Villas-Boas, when they went unbeaten through the league campaign, won the cup and also lifted the Europa League, the pairing of Falcao and Hulk, with either Cristian Rodríguez or Silvestre Varela to the left, proving irresistible. Falcao was quick, superb in the air – remarkably so given he is only 5ft 10in – blessed with a powerful and accurate shot, and capable of pulling wide and dropping deep. As such he fits into the mould of complete strikers: like Marco van Basten or, in more recent times, Andriy Shevchenko.

A €40 million switch to La Liga with Atletico Madrid ensued, for whom he scored 36 goals, including 12 in Europe, in an electric debut season. Undeterred by the pressure of being the most expensive player in the club’s history, he became the first player to win two consecutive Europa League titles with two different teams.

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Nonetheless, his triumphs were far from over with Atletico. He signed off in style, with an equally impressive second – and final – season for the club. Falcao began the campaign with a magnificent hat-trick in his side’s 4-1 UEFA Super Cup victory over Chelsea, before inspiring Atletico to a win over fierce rivals Real Madrid for the first time in 14 years to seal the Copa del Rey. He moved to Monaco in France in what was looked upon as a multi-million-dollar deal.

In Defence of his Manchester United Tenure

The Colombian’s single season in France saw him score on his Ligue 1 debut against Bordeaux before contributing with a further 10 goals in his next 18 appearances. Nonetheless, disaster struck, as an anterior cruciate injury sustained in January during a Coupe de France match against minnows Monts d’Or Azergues Foot, ensured he missed the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil; a heart-breaking realization.

Signed on a season-long loan deal from AS Monaco, the Red Devils had the option to sign Falcao for £43.5 million at the end of the season. But the striker, who missed the World Cup due to knee ligament damage, has had limited impact during his £6 million loan deal so far, due partly to injury.

Falcao had shown brief glimpses of excellence throughout his first seven months at Old Trafford. It’s evident that he can use both feet and is imperious in the air despite only being 5′ 10”; he also displays pace, excellent attacking movement and impressive technique. Arguably, the only aspect lacking from his game is goals. Fans are yet to see the infallible composure in front of goal that Falcao has become renowned for throughout his career, as, unfortunately for the Colombian, the chances have fallen few and far between. Even the most casual observer of the modern game will agree that the striker’s scoring deficiencies have transpired from fortunate goalkeeping and a genuine lack of opportunities.

In fact, Falcao has managed just 21 shots at goal all season – that’s just over one per match – from which he has hit the target an impressive 71 per cent of the time. It is also far fairer to judge the player on the games in which he has started, rather than those appearances he has made as a substitute. He has been involved in seven league goals (four goals and three assists) in nine starts for the Red Devils. In truth, the statistics ain’t that bad!

Clearly there was a genuine desire among the Old Trafford coaching staff, the players and even the majority of fans, to see Radamel Falcao succeed as a United player. Of course, there are those advocating for Falcao’s dismissal upon the expiry of his loan agreement this summer, but for the most-part, the feeling towards the Colombian is overwhelmingly positive.

While he is not going to turn down the eye-watering wage he receives, he is not a brash ego obsessed by money. Form, rather than finance, is the dominant driving force these days.

When Falcao’s number was up in that last game at Old Trafford against Arsenal, he walked towards the substitutes’ bench after another wishy-washy display and raised his hand with an almost apologetic wave to the crowd. His face was a little mournful, really. His adventure in Manchester has been so awkward. Everyone expected something completely different to this.

Things he can achieve with Monaco this season

  • Lift the French championship with Monaco; he has won at least one domestic competition with all his previous permanent clubs. ASM’s first Ligue 1 title since 1999/2000, maybe?
  • He won the UEFA Europa League with Porto and Atleti; can he become the first player to win it with three teams? Or will he lead Monaco to their first UEFA Champions League crown instead?
  • He has amassed 31 goals in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League; nine more and he will match Henrik Larsson’s competition record of 40.
  • With four goals, he is currently equal 16th in Monaco’s all-time European scorers’ ranking. He needs ten more to catch club record holder Viktor Ikpeba.

    Statistics prove that Radamel Falcao – who turns 31 tommorow – is one of the greatest strikers in UEFA competition history and probably one of the greatest sportsperson to even come out from his country but the choice with us is what do we remember him for? A failed stint in the Premier league or someone who moved leagues to live a nomadic life.  I would remember him for one thing, and that is to remind Petr Cech of the devilish left foot which made him look like an amateur.Wish you a very Happy birthday Radamel Falcao and hope you shine brighter than usual.

Originally published at  : Sporquo

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