Will Blues gamble on Radamel Falcao bring great returns or regret?
Colombian sharpshooter Radamel Falcao’s second shot at success in the Premier League with Chelsea (8/5 with Coral to retain the title), after a troubled stint last term at Manchester United, is surely going to be one of the upcoming season’s most intriguing story-lines.
The Blues have announced that a deal is complete, so Falcao will join on a season-long loan from Monaco, after the Red Devils decided against exercising their right to purchase the poacher permanently.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) July 3, 2015
Misfiring Falcao ended up at Old Trafford on deadline day last summer as one of the continent’s most-feared forwards, despite missing the 2014 World Cup due to a careful recovery from a serious knee injury, but never sparked into life under Louis van Gaal.
This will likely be one of the forward’s last chances to reignite his stalling career at a club considered one of Europe’s elite, as lacklustre performances for the Coffee Growers at the 2015 Copa America have done little to dampen doubts that Falcao is a fading power.
Jose Mourinho’s decision to snare the striker can easily be seen as partly political, a not-so subtle prodding to mentor Van Gaal at Man Utd, suggesting he can succeed where the Dutch coach failed and revive the ex-Atletico Madrid attacker.
Whatever the reasoning, Premier League champions Chelsea undoubtedly need a back-up striker who is able to fill the role of both muscle and marksman when somewhat injury-prone and fiery predator Diego Costa is sidelined.
Another Atleti old boy, Costa is crucial to the club’s style of play and without him the likes of Loic Remy have failed to bring the same presence to the Blues. On-form, Falcao is the obvious recruit, with the physique, striking record and power to give former clubmate Costa a run for his money.
Mourinho is the master of calculated risks, so will surely be aware that Falcao is still far from a return to his best, though a run-out in Chile and a proper pre-season should help the South American settle in better at Stamford Bridge.
The ‘Special One’ is also rather renowned for his unique brand of man-management, and could be just the coach to stroke Falcao’s ego, having clearly tracked the attacker for some time.
While it is true that Falcao failed to live up to expectations at Old Trafford, it can be questioned whether he was really given the chance, having played a full 90 minutes in the Premier League just five times. A fair crack of the whip in London, alongside the feeling of being wanted, could be all that is needed to restore his confidence.
View Falcao’s highlights for Man Utd:
Mourihno, for his part, certainly gives the impression that his newest recruit can realsitically reach previous heights: “If I can help Falcao reach his level again, I will do it.”
“It hurts me that people in England think that the real Falcao is the one we saw at Manchester United,” added the Portuguese coach.
Aside from his troubled Red Devils tenure, Falcao’s record stands-up to closer inspection, with 24 in 56 caps for Colombia, plus 72 strikes in 87 with Porto and a similar rate for Atleti, plus 12 in 22 at Monaco before his injury.
Watch Falcao in fearsome form:
Man Utd’s teething problems with the changing tactics under Van Gaal plus limited game time may have been the real problem, but only Falcao can prove he is still capable of being prolific. The 29-year-old himself spoke of the switch, stating: “I am very happy to be joining Chelsea and can’t wait to start training and help with our aim of retaining the league title and being successful in Europe.”
The benefits of a bullish Falcao are obvious, but since the Colombian’s recent injury record is little better than Costa, Stamford Bridge boss Mourinho may be unwise to stake so much on the striker.
Despite having hit three in four games against the Blues (8/1 to lift the Champions League), specifically a heroic hat-trick for Atleti in the 2012 UEFA Super Cup, which will undoubtedly have attracted their attention, Falcao failed to shine opposite the Londoners when kitted out in Manchester red.
Chelsea’s less than impressive history when signing ageing attackers, notably the expensive duo of Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres to whom endless but relevant comparisons are drawn, does not bode well.
Falcao’s case may well be different, and the dangerman certainly still has the potential to be a goal menace again, however, his signing does pose some serious questions regarding Chelsea’s youth policy.
With young, homegrown, academy-reared forwards, including Championship Player of the Year Patrick Bamford and Dominic Solanke, in plentiful supply, why keep eyeing players arguably past their best?
Chelsea, of course, crave trophies, but veteran and legend Didier Drogba’s exit should have paved the way for Blues profidigies, not blocked the path by forcing another acquisition.
The main plus point appears to be that Mourinho is hedging his bets with a loan deal, with Falcao having to earn a permanent stay through performances. Should one of Bamford or Solanke, or another young foward from around Europe excel in the meantime, Chelsea (5/1 to win the FA Cup) could have tough choices this time next summer.