Opinion: Why we all have a soft spot for Falcao
A shockwave powered through football on the evening of 2 September 2014, when it was announced that predatory striker Radamel Falcao had joined Manchester United on a season-long loan.
Fans were universally buzzing and everyone was hyped to see the Colombian leading the line in our famous no.9 shirt.
I remember attending the press conference that marked his arrival, hardly believing that he was sat on that top table with the club crest displayed on his chest.
This was the talisman who led FC Porto to a domestic and European treble, the juggernaut who smashed Chelsea with a hat-trick for Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup. He was a big name with an even bigger reputation.
A genuine superstar.
But away from the ticker tape, an elephant was lurking in the room. Radamel was returning from a serious knee injury and had not played for over a year. That lack of fitness, coupled with a tactical approach that did not suit his game, resulted in a chastening campaign for the South American hero.
It was at times difficult to watch, seeing a once great striker struggling for form and fitness, perhaps realising that his best days were behind him. Age and injury had appeared to catch up with him. It was like a champion boxer trading on his one power punch over speed, accuracy and agility.
Falcao ultimately only scored four goals in 29 appearances for United before the club opted against signing him on a permanent deal at the close of the 2014/15 season, a decision that was arguably justified when his struggles continued at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho the following campaign.
There is undoubtedly a sympathetic feeling towards the Colombian and everybody I know has embraced his recent renaissance back at parent club AS Monaco, where his goals inspired their Ligue 1 title success in 2016/17. That campaign also included a filthy finish against Manchester City in the Champions League and that European brace is well worth another watch online.
His work with a renowned physiotherapist from Brazil, Eduardo Santos, has appeared to pay off, following a reported recommendation to him by his former Porto manager Andre Villas-Boas.
While Falcao may not be the powerhouse of 2013, when he was arguably the most feared striker in football, he has undoubtedly rediscovered his mojo in front of goal and it’s a joy to see.
This has led to him starring at his first World Cup, in Russia, where he is carrying the weight of the Colombian nation alongside fellow superstar James Rodriguez. He scored a celebrated goal during the 3-0 group-stage win over Poland and his next outing is a tantalising last-16 clash against England.
Jesse Lingard is among his former United team-mates and, shrewdly, the Academy graduate has stated the Three Lions must monitor Falcao’s “lethal” finishing around the box on Tuesday night. In fact, everybody of an English persuasion should forget about the Premier League version of Falcao and focus on the reboot, which is fuelled by instinct and a determination to make up for his lost years.
Whether Radamel progresses to the quarter-final or not, he is already a success story of the 2018 World Cup in my book.
My affection for the Colombian will definitely endure.
All together now: "Lo, lo, lo, lo, lo, lo, looooo, Radamel Falcao!"
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.