Surely, there can be nobody in world football whose reputation has declined as sharply or as dramatically over the past two seasons, as Radamel Falcao. From 2009 to 2013, the Colombian’s goal scoring statistics were consistently phenomenal, and equally impressive was the way in which he went about amassing these totals. Almost perfectly two-footed, a fantastic header of the ball, strong in possession, lightening quick across the ground, incisive with his runs, clever with his positioning – by the end of his final season with Atletico he was widely regarded as the best pure #9 on the planet, and with good reason.
That summer many of Europe’s top sides, including ourselves (and Real Madrid) were rumoured to be strongly interested in signing him for big money, and so his £55m move to Monaco was slightly surprising. Things have gone rather badly ever since. Despite playing well, though not brilliantly, for his first six months in France, following a bad knee injury in January (which ruled him out of the World Cup) his reputation began to dwindle it seemed, along with his new club’s ambitions of ever challenging PSG for the league title. One year later, and after a wholly underwhelming, frankly embarrassing loan spell at Man Utd, we find ourselves in this current situation, where the striker’s status in the game has all but depleted and a move to Chelsea is very much ‘on the cards’.
It’s a strange situation when the opportunity to bring a man as evidently talented as Falcao to a football club ends up dividing fan opinion so strongly. Nobody seems quite willing to say for certain whether they think he is still world class, and just short of fitness, form and confidence after a difficult 18 months; or whether his current struggles are the result of an unstoppable decline, as his peak years draw to a close. As far as I can see there are a number of reasons to be decidedly for and against this deal happening (though it looks like it’s happening regardless). Let’s see if we can weigh them up…
Reasons this is a bad idea:
1) We’ve been through this before – If there’s one club in the world fully aware of the dangers of signing a big name, ex-Atletico, out of form, though previously excellent centre forward with a history of knee injuries, then it’s Chelsea. The similarities between this deal and Fernando Torres’ transfer border on the eerie, and after finally correcting that three and half year mistake last season, it’s not an error we want to make again, any time soon (or ever).
2) We don’t really need another big name striker – Though a replacement is needed for Didier Drogba, I’m not convinced that signing a forward of Falcao’s standing would be the most appropriate allocation of the wage budget. Other areas of the team would benefit more from expensive additions in my opinion, and, especially with Juan Cuadrado rumoured to be leaving, perhaps a more versatile forward option like Antoine Griezmann (or Theo Walcott?) who could play behind, as well as instead of Diego Costa, might be more useful.
3) The potential to unsettle the team – The dressing room spirit was obviously fantastic last season and that isn’t something we want to lose. If Falcao gets into the team and continues to struggle, we don’t want the negativity surrounding him to affect the other players; if he fails to get into the team and becomes disillusioned, then that could have a damaging impact on the group morale also.
Reasons this is a good idea:
1) There are reasons to think he would improve at Chelsea – There are, in fact, many reasons. He would be re-united with Diego Costa – the strike partner he had during his most prolific season with Atletico Madrid. Chelsea are a far more settled and cohesive side than Man Utd, and so he can expect to receive both a more consistent and a higher level of service from the midfield. He should also be fitter and more familiar with the league after a full season of playing in England. His new manager’s record of coaching top strikers isn’t too shabby either.
2) No real pressure to succeed – Costa’s position at the club as first choice centre forward was firmly established last season, whilst Loic Remy proved himself more than just a capable back-up. If Falcao doesn’t return to his best then Mourinho has options. The pressure won’t be on the Colombian, as it was on Torres, to overcome his problems in order to carry the team across the season. As far as he may have fallen, he’s still a pretty good third choice.
3) Virtually no risk – The fact the proposed deal is only a one year loan with an option to buy, makes it far easier to be philosophical about the potential pros and cons of this transfer. If it works out then our potential reward could be huge compared to a minimal outlay. If it goes badly then we simply cut our losses, having lost very little.
Overall, I think I’m in favour of this signing. Already we must be favourites to retain the Premier League trophy next season, but if Falcao can recover his Atletico form in a blue shirt and provide us with a second world class striking option (a deficiency which was hampering, though not fatal last season), then the odds on our victory would shorten even further. What’s more is the player himself seems set on the move, to the point where he’s (allegedly) even happy to take a sizable pay cut. This gives me the confidence that he’d have the humility to accept a squad role, at least initially, and would have the patience to try and earn his place in the team.
Ever since that most miserable of nights when he scored a hat-trick against us in the European Super Cup, it was a dream of many supporters to see Falcao sign for the club. He certainly wouldn’t arrive as the same player who tore us apart three years ago, but if there is even the slimmest possibility he might rekindle that kind of form for us next season, then it must surely be worth the gamble.