The football world was shocked in 2013 when news of Radamel Falcao’s transfer to AS Monaco was confirmed. Frankly, I was embarrassed.
Coming off the back of yet another prolific campaign for Atletico Madrid, Falcao was coveted by the biggest and best clubs in the world. Chelsea (who he humiliated in a devastating display earlier that season), Real Madrid (managed by Jose Mourinho at the time, and in dire need for a real ‘Galactico’ striker to replace Karim Benzema), Manchester City (in dire need of a marquee striker to serve as foil for Sergio Aguero’s trickery), even Bayern Munich, who opted to sign Robert Lewandowski on a free the next summer, were all credited with interest in the Colombia captain – especially Chelsea and City.
Instead, Falcao opted for Monaco; an over ambitious club just promoted to the French league, which happens to be the most unsatisfactory league among Europe’s top five leagues that include La Liga, the Premiership, Bundesliga and Serie A. Falcao elected not to play Champions League football for a season, acclimatise to uninteresting, new surroundings and play football on surfaces as rough as rough can be. His decision baffled everyone. At the time, Goal’s Mark Doyle wrote that Falcao was “throwing his career away”. Two years later, Doyle’s words have come true.
In that piece, Doyle did rightly point out that “injury can curtail a career at any moment, so the onus is on a rational-thinking professional to make as much money as possible while he can”. So, considering the knee injury he sustained in January last year Falcao might allow himself and his agent a smile for a job well done. After all, where else would he have earned as much as the £300k he earns weekly, while on the injury table for nine months?
The reality, though, is that the damage Falcao has inflicted upon himself cannot be repaired by the hefty sums he receives as wages.
For a player who has spent his entire career in the spotlight, it is befuddling that a player of Falcao’s calibre and in his prime too, would accept the lesser lights of France’s Principality. It also tests the powers of imagination to understand why he ever thought he would remain the predatory ‘El Tigre’ he once was.
In his very first season with Monaco, which can be termed mediocre at best, Falcao mustered less than 10 goals before succumbing to that anterior cruciate ligament injury in January 2014 – a situation which would unlikely have happened had he been the first choice striker for Chelsea or Manchester City; he would not have been risked for such a worthless cup match.
Then came the downhill tumble. After a summer of huge spending, Monaco owner, Dmitry Rybolovlev, could no longer spend as blatantly as he wanted to. And Falcao, only months previously the star of the Monaco Project, was dispensable.
To Manchester United Falcao went on loan, and back to Monaco he has gone as United refused to take up their option of signing him permanently. But who would have? Four goals in over two dozen appearances is not really an impressive statistic to improve considerations on whether or not to splash £45m on a striker.
The crux of this piece is the latest news that Chelsea are close to completing some sort of deal to sign Falcao. What triggered the article specifically is the news reports circulating that Falcao is willing to take a pay cut to join the Premier League champions. The player himself says he is willing to stay in England, but that sounds like a desperate man struggling to cling on to the last opportunity to make a mark or otherwise face an inevitable descent to the list of former greats like Fernando Torres, Andriy Shevchenko and Hernan Crespo – all of whom suddenly struggled for form after only shortly before being renowned finishers.
It is a pity that a player once revered and feared by defences and wanted by managers the world over has been reduced to a mere footballer practically begging to feature for the elite once more. But this is what happens when footballers put financial gain over sporting values. The relative tax-free status of Monte Carlo must have appealed to him. Indeed, only a few footballers can earn a net salary of €14m-per-year and not be Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, or be playing in Russia.
The blame must also go to Jorge Mendes, the so-called super agent behind Falcao’s most recent transfers from River Plate through Monaco. Mendes, whose relationship with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho will likely smooth over a deal for Falcao this summer, is responsible for the third-party group, Doyen Sports Investment (DSI), that has led Falcao to this low point in his career.
Third-party is a monster, and cannot be allowed to thrive in football. Hulk is another victim of third-party ownership. This 2013 article on the Daily Mail details how DSI engineered Falcao’s damaging transfer to Monaco and this one on Reddit sheds even more light on the awkwardness of the situation.
In any case, players have a choice as do every human being. The choices made now affect tomorrow. And Falcao’s seeming lack of ambition two years ago is haunting him now.
Chelsea may be his last shot at playing amongst the elite, but look how much it has cost him to get here. The physical pain of his injury, the mental scars of his season-long loan at Old Trafford, the psychological effect of his inability to produce when he desperately needed to and the stinging criticism from the media cannot have gone unnoticed.
Youngsters and money-hungry footballers should think long and hard before making decisions that will potentially harm their careers. Asamoah Gyan quit Sunderland and headed to the UAE, and ever since then little has been heard of him. Falcao should consider himself lucky.
And he must show more goalscoring ambition for any club he signs for next.