El Tigre. The moniker that used to strike fear in the hearts of defences across Portugal, Spain and France. In England, however, the effect has been a little muted. Why? How has a man so feared in three European leagues become so ‘ordinary’ in the EPL? Let us investigate the curious case of Radamel Falcao.
After a series of devastating performances in Europe for both Porto and Atlético Madrid – the name Radamel Falcao began to resonate loudly in Europe. In 2013 – after helping Atléti defeat Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final – big spending Monaco decided that he would become one of their main acquisitions to challenge PSG for the Ligue 1 title. Many saw it as a big money move influenced by his third-party ownership. After just one season, Falcao began wanting away.
Despite a courtship with Real Madrid that ended with an embarrassing tweet, United set the internet and United hearts alight by signing Falco on loan before the summer 2014 transfer window shuttered – a confirmation that Van Gaal was bent on putting up a serious challenge for the EPL crown with his own squad of ‘Gaalacticos’.
Fast forward to January 2015, and strangely, the stats just don’t add up. 12 games, 3 goals, 3 assists in the EPL aren’t numbers reflective of the same El Tigre that was the scourge of Portugal, Spain and France. A calf injury forced him out for five weeks, but his cumulative performance in England has prompted a debate on whether he is worth the £43.5 million that United will have to pay to get him on board full-time.
Jorge Mendes, who represents both Falcao and De Gea, wants United to complete the Falcao signing before speaking about this season’s standout star, De Gea. Van Gaal is desperate to tie down De Gea to a new contract before Real Madrid table an offer that neither De Gea nor United will be able to refuse. To add further fuel to the flame, rumours that United would rather swop Falcao for PSG’s Edinson Cavani are beginning to surface. Van Gaal’s decision to leave Falcao out of the squad completely in Sunday’s home loss to Southampton – a crucial match that could have used his firepower – seemed to solidify the fact that the Colombian may not have a future at United.
In my local pub in Singapore with friends, we’d scream at the TV for Falcao to come on whenever he was on the bench, because we knew – deep down – that he would make a difference. When he did come on, it was clear that this was a man who wanted to prove himself and show the United faithful – and most importantly, Van Gaal – what he was capable of. Falcao may not have scored a goal or two in each game, but he was seemingly everywhere. His play showed selflessness. Who can forget that pass which created Rooney’s goal against Newcastle. When United’s defence was being plagued, Falcao could be found near the bottom end of the pitch. Unfortunately, as a striker in today’s game, you need to do all that and still knock in a goal a game. After all, that’s why they come with such hefty price tags.
It is safe to say that the Manchester United camp around the world is divided. Many want Falcao to stay because there is belief that he can still find his scoring boots during the remainder of the season. The other half feels that United should cut its losses and send him back to France.
Whatever happens over the next few weeks is crucial. Jorge Mendes holds a trump card which United will need to read carefully if they don’t want to lose a crucial player. Matches against QPR, Cambridge, Leicester, West Ham and Burnley should give Falcao ample opportunities to score – if he plays at all. I join United fans around world who can’t wait to see how this drama, which has unfolded in such a bizarre way, will end.