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Three year’s ago, most football fans would have been forgiven to hear the name Radamel Falcao and respond with a resounding “Who?”
Perhaps that is the greatest testament to the meteoric rise that is Falcao’s career – he came from relative obscurity to European football fans and in a short period of time plying his trade in Europe, he has had a devastating amount of success.
His €5 million (roughly) move from River Plate to FC Porto in 2009 should have been both exciting and daunting for him. He had the task of replacing Porto’s Argentine idol – star striker Lisandro López had just completed a €24 million move to French side Lyon.
That wouldn’t have come as a shock to Porto fans, in fact they have become used to buying players (most of which are South American) for small fees and then selling them for significantly higher when they begin to approach stardom.
Despite all this, Falcao replaced Lisandro López faster than Porto fans could ever have hoped for – in fact, “Licha” as López was affectionately called, wasn’t even remotely missed.
Falcao showed the world just how ready he was for European football as he set Portugal’s Liga Sagres alight, notching 34 goals in all competitions in his debut season for his new club, seamlessly transitioning into Porto’s 4-3-3 system where he formed a formidable triumvirate with Varela and Hulk.
It was the introduction of André Villas-Boas as FC Porto manager a season later that really put Falcao in the spotlight of the rest of Europe; Porto went unbeaten with 27 wins and three draws in their domestic league. On top of that, AvB’s side won the Taça de Portugal and stormed to the final of the UEFA Europa League where Falcao, who ended the tournament with a record high 17 goals, scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Portuguese rivals SC Braga.
AvB left Porto for Chelsea that summer, and his departure sparked rumours of many of Porto’s stars leaving for greener pastures. Despite all the speculation, Porto remained largely in tact, but Falcao’s time at the club was up.
He spent only two seasons at Porto, but his goal tally was nothing short of phenomenal and Portista’s will not soon forget “El Tigre” and his ruthlessness in front of goal. He moved that same summer to Spanish side Atlético Madrid for a fee of €40 million, and he was again tasked with replacing an idol – Atlético had just sold Argentine superstar Sergio Aguero to Manchester City early that window.
Again, expectations did not phase Falcao, he instead looked like a man who reveled in the spotlight. He took no time to adjust to Spanish football, scoring 24 goals in La Liga in his first season. For the second consecutive year, Falcao won the UEFA Europa League, again grabbing the top scorer award as he led Atlético to victory with 12 goals.
As the January transfer window approaches and the inevitable rumours come to the surface, Atlético must surely be sweating with anticipation of Europe’s big guns coming in for their Colombian goal-machine, who has 10 goals in 9 La Liga games this season, keeping pace with both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
The name Radamel Falcao is synonymous with goals. He is, undeniably now, a world-class goalscorer. With many teams in Europe struggling to find the right striker to finish off their opportunities, they need look no further than Falcao.
The question of whether Falcao will eventually leave Atlético Madrid is no longer an “if” but more “when” and “to who?”
If history is an indicator, his suitors should have no concerns that he can come in and have instant success.