Radamel Falcao García Zárate was once rightfully regarded as one of the world's greatest out and out strikers, if not the greatest.
Then a year into a perhaps ill advised transfer to Monégasque side AS Monaco FC on the 23rd January 2014, disaster struck. When playing a Coupe de France (French Cup) match against amateur side Monts d’Or Azergues Foot, Falcao was tackled by an opposing player, causing a significant lesion in the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, worst case scenario.
This injury not only put Falcao out for the rest of the remaining 13/14 season but also denied Falcao the opportunity to represent Colombia at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
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The then 28-year-old was of course devastated, spending a great deal of time in rehab and missing 20 games in total for Monaco. However, he was soon back on his feet and playing again, yet there was a difference in his game.
The former two time Ballon D’or nominee spurned easy chances, struggled to control the ball and lacked his previous world renowned heading threat. He simply wasn’t the player he once was.
That was over a year ago and we still haven’t seen the old Falcao that we all so desperately wish to have back. But we will discuss his season at Manchester United and his upcoming season with Chelsea later on. For now, it will be worth looking at the player's background and his history.
Born: 10th February 1986 (29 yrs old)
Born in the coastal city of Santa Marta, based in the north of Colombia facing the Caribbean Sea.
He is approximately 177cm (5 ft 10), making his heading ability all the more remarkable.
Nickname: El Tigre (The Tiger in his native Spanish)
Whilst he was born in Santa Marta, Falcao spent a great deal of his childhood touring around his native Colombia and neighbouring Venezuela due to the fact that his father was also a footballer.
Part of Falcao’s brilliant movement and positioning can be argued to stem from the training he got from his father, Radamel García who was a defender. García made sure that he taught his son how to be a thorn in the side of a defender, everything he hated defending against, he taught Falcao.
Radamel Falcao started his career in 1999 at the young age of 13 for Colombian side Lanceros Boyacá. He came on as a thirteen year old during a league game, setting a record for youngest player as he did. It became obvious soon that Falcao even as a 13-year-old had a great deal of potential in the game.
Thus after making total of eight appearances for Boyacá and scoring one goal, Argentine side River Plate signed him up in February of 2001 for a sum of £320,000, a considerable sum of money for the then 15 year old Falcao.
It was at River Plate that Falcao began to grow and develop as a player. He would have to wait until 2005, as a 19 year old, to make his first team appearance for the Buenos Aires outlet. However once given his chance to pit himself in one of the strongest and most demanding leagues on the continent, both River Plate’s management and Falcao himself did not look back.
Although his time at River was not without some pitfalls, in the 05/06 season, Falcao suffered a severe injury to his right knee ligament, which eventually put him out of the game for six months.
It is possible to argue that this injury helped Falcao develop the mental resilience to develop further in the game. This can be seen just the following season after his ligament injury, where he was called up to the Colombian national team for the first time.
Eventually after having won his first championship of his career with River Plate, the Torneo Clausura, in 2008, European sides started to take notice of this Colombian striker who had netted 34 league goals in 90 appearances. And in the summer of 2009, Porto signed him for £2.7 million (or at least they signed 60% of his rights, the other 40% remained with a third party).
If River Plate was the club that developed Falcao, then it was at Porto that he truly announced himself on the global stage of Football. Interestingly enough just the day before Falcao joined Porto he was supposed to sign for rivals Benfica, however the management refused to pay the extra £480,000 that Radamel demanded, thus Porto jumped at the opportunity to sign him.
If there were any doubts about the signing of Falcao for Porto fans then they were soon diminished, and he made an astounding start to European football, scoring four goals in his first four games. This goalscoring form continued for the rest of the season, with Falcao eventually finishing with 36 goals in total, 25 in the league alone. It was this form that led to Porto winning the Portuguese Cup, as well as coming second in the League to rivals Benfica.
It was his second and final season (the 10/11 season) with Porto that he was readily acknowledged as one of the world's best strikers, smashing in a total of 38 goals in the season. Whilst a higher number of goals compared to his first season, it was ten less than his previous league total; this time netting just 15 league goals.
He had proven his consistency on a wide range of venues. It was his 17 goals in the Europa League that not only smashed Jürgen Klinsmann's record of 15 goals in a club based European tournament but also led Porto to win the Europa League.
Yet as what happened at his last two clubs, bigger clubs took notice of Falcao’s goal scoring record, this time at a much higher level than the Argentine Premiership. Thus in the summer of 2011 Spanish side Atlético Madrid took an interest and broke their transfer record to bring the Colombian to Madrid; spending a rumoured £34.8 million.
This deal reunited Falcao with his previous mentor Diego Simeone, who had managed him at River Plate. Falcao ended his career with Porto with 72 goals in 87 appearances across all competitions.
Having been signed for a club record sum of money, there was pressure of Falcao to not just succeed in Madrid, but to thrive. But of course, this was Falcao we were talking about, thus when expected to succeed, he did what he always did, he succeeded.
Just a few months into his career at Atléti, Falcao made history. On the 9th December 2012 he smashed in five goals in one game against Deportivo. Whilst he was not the first to do this, he is one of very very few to have done such an achievement.
Falcao continued his flourishing career with a number of trophies, winning the Europa League yet again in the 2011-2012 season. However, much like his career with Porto, Falcao only stayed at Atléti for two seasons, despite the man himself regarding his time in Madrid as the favourite era of his career.
On the May 31 2013, Monaco announced they had made an agreement with Atlético Madrid for the rights of Radamel Falcao. The Colombian left Atléti having scored 70 goals in 91 appearances, as well having won the Europa League, Copa del Rey and the European Super Cup.
Not only this but whilst at Atléti, Falcao picked up numerous individual awards: a place in FIFA’s XI of the year, two nominations for Ballon D’or (coming 5th and 11th respectively) and being runner up in the annual Puskás award in 2012. Monaco made the signing for £45.9m.
Monaco and Manchester United
These two clubs are placed together as Falcao was only at Monaco for short length of time (22 appearances and 13 goals) before his injury, which has already been discussed.
Falcao was supposed to be part of the Monaco revolution, wherein they bought a great deal of great players (Falcao, Jérémy Toulalan, James Rodríguez and João Moutinho among others) for a great deal of money. As we so often see, this rarely works (see Anzhi Makhachkala). Falcao was expected to be the fulcrum of this team, with players being built around him.
Yet due to his injury it appears less and less likely that Falcao will play for Monaco again, let alone having a team built around him.
That brings us to Manchester United.
He made 29 appearances across all competitions for Man Utd last season, yet he scored just four solitary goals. But it wasn’t just his lack of goals that was startling; rather it was his performances as a whole.
The predatory striker who boasted phenomenal movement and a world class first touch was gone. Every ball that came towards him rather than being trapped and controlled seemingly bounced off him. The only other collapse of a footballer even remotely close to this would be Fernando Torres; formally a world great, one too many hamstring injuries and he lost it all.
Does Falcao have a future at top class teams? Unfortunately, having seen his performances last season for Manchester United, even against lower league teams such as Preston North End or Cambridge United, he struggled immensely, thus ultimately it seems that the player we once all loved, is truly gone.
Perhaps we will see him in flashes, somewhat similar to how Torres would redeem himself but then go on to play terribly for the next seven games.
As a fan of Falcao, and a fan of football, I can only wish him the best and hope we see him play back at his best, but I’m not expecting it. A player who would rely so heavily on his finishing qualities needs them about, and as said he has seemingly lost that midas touch in front of goal, do not expect big things from the Colombian this season.