He was once regarded as one of the most lethal strikers in World Football, but the name Radamel Falcao is increasingly becoming a conduit for ridicule and in a very short space of time the Colombian international has become something of a laughing stock, as his reputation as one of finest finishers in the game falls into obscurity.
El Tigre, as he is known in his native Colombia, was once recognised for his pace, power and predatory instincts in the box, that – during his time with Porto and Atletico Madrid – made him one of the most sought after strikers in the game.
In two seasons in Portugal with Porto, Falcao amassed an impressive goal haul of 41 goals in 51 games, before moving to Spain where he scored 52 goals in 68 games with Atletico Madrid. Whilst in Spain, Falcao was top of the class and at times was scoring goals at the same frequency as La Liga goal machines Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
At his peak the Colombian international cut a lean figure and brought dynamism to both club and country. Prior to the cruciate knee ligament injury he suffered in the build up to World Cup finals in Brazil in 2014, Falcao could do no wrong and looked like an accomplished finisher with a bright future ahead of him.
However, when Falcao returned from a long injury lay-off that saw him miss the finals ins Brazil, the Colombian had already left Altetico Madrid for the wealth of AS Monaco, following the promise of fortune and success that the French club had used to coarse other big names to Stade Louis at the time.
It didn’t quite work out in Ligue 1, despite scoring eleven goals in 20 appearances, Falcao was visibly stockier and lacking the extra yard of pace and self-confidence that had made him unplayable in the past. The great player that once existed in Falcao was fading, and fast!
In the summer after the World cup finals in Brazil, Falcao’s rehabilitation continued after returning to Monaco for pre-season training, but on transfer deadline day in 2014, Falcao made an unexpected move to Manchester United and became part of the newly established Louis Van Gaal regime at Old Trafford.
Fighting to rebuild his fitness under a manager with a strict approach to player fitness and sharpness, Falcao always seemed destined to fail under Van Gaal and was used sparingly by the Dutchman in what was to be an underwhelming season for both the Colombian and Manchester United.
During a torrid spell at Manchester United Falcao often looked energetic, but ultimately frustrated, whilst feeding off scraps that Van Gaal’s system and the obvious lack in quality that provided little support not just to Falcao, but any United striker than Van Gaal called upon for moments of inspiration.
Whilst the Colombian’s time at Manchester United was seemingly underwhelming – having scored only four times in twenty six appearances- many could argue that under different circumstances, with the right players around him and if offered more patience and support from Van Gaal, Falcao may have flourished at Old Trafford.
After a difficult first season in the Premier League, Manchester United seemed unimpressed by the return on the investment that brought Falcao to the North West and the option to sign Falcao on a permanent basis was not taken up. And so the pattern of rejection began for the declining star as he headed out of Old Trafford with a wimper.
With his Old Trafford torment behind him, Falcao was given a life-line in the form of Jose Mourihno and Chelsea and much like the initial opinion when the Colombian signed for United, it seems yet again like the perfect marriage.
However, despite Mourinho suggesting he would be able to get the best out of the Colombian, Falcao scored only one goal in a handful of appearances and has not only fallen down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge, but fallen off it completely as he regularly struggles to even make the matchday squad these days.
On transfer deadline day in January 2016 Falcao was rumoured to be in Spain trying to engineer a return to Atletico Madrid, but it seems that not even his adopted Spanish family want to take a gamble on him – and this is the club that were willing to give a mis-firing, confidence lacking Fernando Torres a second chance.
Where Falcao will end up is anyone’s guess and as he enters his thirties you have to wonder if the free-scoring Radamel Falcao will ever grace the arenas of Europe’s elite again. It is a shame that a player (in similar vain to Fernando Torres) suddenly declined overnight. In the case of Falcao it seems pretty evident that the ACL injury he suffered in 2014 played a bit part in his rapid decline and the Colombian has never recovered and lost all the assets that made him so punishing.
To compound matters further, the arrival of Alexandre Pato has subsequently all but ended the Colombians career at Chelsea (and most likely in the Premier League) as the former AC Milan and Corinthians striker has been registered for Chelsea’s Champions League squad in place of Falcao.
It is sad to see a player like Falcao fall from grace, especially when only last summer I was relishing the prospect of seeing him light up Old Trafford for years to come. However, with Monaco not keen to take him back, Chelsea looking to wash their hands with him and Atletico now rejecting a potential reunion, perhaps China or the MLS will be more realistic options for a striker who until only recently, was regarded by many as one of the – if not hands down the very best – striker in World football.