Radamel Falcao: The next Ronaldo or Messi?

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In Spain, it’s easy to forget that there are hundreds of players who don’t have the name Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.

That’s not a slight on the undeniable talent that swells La Liga and makes it one of the best leagues in the world. The simple fact of the matter is that these two players are the best in the business at the current time, and two of the all-time greats in football history.

Last season, Messi scored 73 goals for Barca in all competitions. Ronaldo hit 60. These are incredible numbers from two individuals, scoring more goals than some teams as a whole.

What this brilliance does, however, is take away from other top players and set an unrealistic benchmark for us to try and compare.

Take Radamel Falcao, for example. The Atletico Madrid striker hit 36 goals in 50 games last season, helping his side win the Europa League in the process.

The 26-year-old Colombian has scored goals prolifically since moving to Europe back in 2009, firstly with Porto and then last season in the Spanish capital. But, even after one year, he doesn’t feel he’s in the same league as the big two.

"Messi and Ronaldo are certainly the best in the world. They are both unbelievable. Actually I am very happy to be a contemporary of those geniuses, to enjoy them on the pitch," Falcao told

But if Falcao continues in the rich vein of form he played himself into last season, he could be a serious contender for the big prizes. And, to his credit, it looks like he's ready to rumble once again this season after bagging a fine hat-trick against Athletic Bilbao last night.

In a repeat of the Europa final from three months ago, Falcao demonstrated the skills that are at his disposal against one of the division's top sides, notching his first with a smart chip finish, his second with a powerful effort at the far post and his third from the penalty spot.

The victory moved Atletico up to fourth in the table after two games, with Falcao joint-second in the race to win the Spanish equivalent to the Golden Boot - the Pichichi Trophy. He sits behind Messi, of course.

The two South Americans have just a year between them (Falcao 26, Messi 25), which means their careers could well be linked for plenty of seasons to come. What seperates the two at the current time, is consistency.

What makes Messi and Ronaldo so great is that they consistently produce football at the highest level. They rarely go more than two games without scoring, and will often grab goals in bunches. That's how they manage to post numbers in a single season around the 60 and 70 mark.

It's important to take into account the fact that Falcao scored so many goals last season without playing for one of 'the big two'. If he did play for Madrid or Barca, you wonder how many goals he might be able to score in a season, having hit over 30 last season.  

But, at Atletico Madrid, he may not get the recognition he deserves, and a move to a big European team surely can't be far away if he wants to be held in the highest eschilons of world football.

To prove his ability, we've got his goals from yesterday's win below. Watch the hat-trick, and decide for yourself if he's the real deal...

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