Inside Radamel Falcao's career – from Man Utd humiliation to Rayo Vallecano revival

The Colombian striker was once viewed as one of football’s most deadly marksmen, with ‘El Tigre’s’ signature highly sought by just about every major European club

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Watch Radamel Falcao’s ridiculous dive for Colombia

As Radamel Falcao turns 36, it is a fitting time to reflect on a career that has seen the Colombian international ply his trade for nine different teams in seven different countries across 22 years.

“El Tigre” is widely regarded as one of the finest strikers of his generation, though question marks hang over the former FC Porto striker for his questionable two-season stint in the Premier League.

Prior to arriving on these shores, Falcao made his name in Portugal after two stellar years at Porto followed an impressive five-year period at River Plate and put his name on the transfer shortlist of plenty of major clubs across the continent.

It was Atletico Madrid who would secure his signature in 2011 after they forked out an eyewatering £40million to make Falcao the most expensive player in the club’s illustrious history.

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Radamel Falcao was Atletico Madrid’s most expensive player ever at the time of his signing

He took very little time to adjust to life in the Spanish capital and notched a hat-trick on his home debut during a 4-0 win over Racing Santander to start as he meant to go on.

By the end of his debut season for Los Colchoneros, Falcao had become the first player ever to win two successive Europa League titles with two different clubs after following up his success with Porto in emphatic fashion at the first attempt.

His second season at Atletico started in similar fashion with two hat-tricks, the second against Chelsea in the 2012 UEFA Super Cup as the striker inspired his side to a rampant 4-1 win.

By this time, Falcao was viewed as arguably the most lethal striker on the planet and fifth in the 2012 Ballon d’Or.

But much like his time at Porto, Falcao was to be on the move again just two years later when he was lured to the millionaires playground that is Monaco.

He had been on the radar of both Chelsea and neighbours Real Madrid, but was lured to the French Riviera after Monaco offered him a five-year deal that would see the striker pocket €14m per-year.

It was here where Falcao would become an integral part of a Monaco side that played their way into the hearts of fans across Europe thanks to their spirited Champions League displays.

However, not before he enjoyed two separate stabs of making a go of it in England.

The first came at Old Trafford after Manchester United agreed to house Falcao for the 2014/15 season in a deal that saw the Red Devils pay £6m in loan fee and enjoy the option of making the switch permanent to the tune of £43.5m come the end of the campaign.

Radamel Falcao failed to make the grade at Old Trafford

They did not activate that extension – Falcao enduring a miserable time of it in Manchester despite being described as a “fantastic buy” for the club by United legend Cristiano Ronaldo.

It took him less than a month to net his first goal after he bagged the winner in a 2-1 home victory over Everton, but things were to go downhill quickly.

Footballers and ego go hand in hand but Louis van Gaal has very rarely cared about that and paid little attention to Falcao’s pride when he dropped the Colombian for teenager James Wilson on two occasions before publicly declaring he had no regrets over that decision.

This prompted a response from the players representative, notorious super-agent Jorge Mendes, who told reporters his client “may not be at Old Trafford at the start of next season.”

His lowest point at United came when Van Gaal forced Falcao to play for the club’s Under-21 side – in which he was substituted just after the hour mark.

Radamel Falcao was rather humiliatingly forced to play in a Manchester United U-21 game

Though the Dutch manager insisted he had not intended to “humiliate” the striker, the move was described as “disrespectful and disgraceful” by Dietmar Hamann while the late Diego Maradona opted for the more personal jibe of claiming Van Gaal “was closer to the devil than anything.”

There was no way back for Falcao and he duly left United with a feeble four goals in 29 appearances.

If at first you don’t succeed, move to a direct rival, and that is exactly what Falcao did as he spent the 2015/16 season on loan at fellow Premier League title chasers Chelsea.

The move saw the Blues fork out £4m in loan fees while having the option to keep the Colombian in West London permanently for £38m.

Then-Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho could barely contain his excitement upon confirmation of the deal.

“When he went to Man United I have to say I was a bit scared,” Mourinho told ESPN FC.

Radamel Falcao scored just once for Chelsea

“Because he’s a predator in the box and a guy who does score goals all the time. He did that in every club in every league, so I was convinced he was going to do that in our league, in England.”

Remarkably, his time at Stamford Bridge managed to be more underwhelming than his time as a United player.

He scored his one and only Chelsea goal in a dismal 2-1 home defeat by Crystal Palace before the remainder of his time in the capital was hampered by persistent injuries.

The striker is not one for much media coverage and has rarely opened up on either of his miserable moves in England, but Falcao returned to Monaco in the summer of 2016 ready to prove he still had what it takes.

A squad littered with talent that would go on to excel on the highest stage, Falcao could consider the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Fabinho, Bernardo Silva and Thomas Lemar as some of his teammates upon his first season back in Ligue 1 for two years.

Radamel Falcao scored a stunning chip against Manchester City in the Champions League while at Monaco

The aforementioned quartet along with Falcao all played crucial parts as they reached the last four of the Champions League for the first time since 2004 during the 2016/17 season.

The highlight of that European campaign undoubtedly came against Manchester City when they dumped out Pep Guardiola’s men on away goals after the two-legged affair ended 6-6 on aggregate.

Falcao bagged one of Monaco’s crucial three away goals during the 5-3 defeat at the Etihad with a delightful chip over the helpless Willy Caballero.

Though they were eventually eliminated at the semi-final stage, they were crowned winners of Ligue 1 for the first time in 17 years.

While the majority of his future superstar teammates would leave at the end of that season, the Colombian stuck around for two more years before eventually calling time on his Monaco stay himself.

A miserable two year spell at Galatasaray followed which was again scuppered by lengthy spells on the side-lines, the most severe injury occurring in training when he collided with teammate Kerem Akturkoglu head-on and was forced to undergo surgery on a facial bone fracture.

Radamel Falcao is enjoying a new lease of life at Rayo Vallecano

However, Falcao may actually get his happy ending after all in the small Spanish neighbourhood of Vallecas where he now resides while playing for La Liga outfit Rayo Vallecano.

Proudly donning the number three shirt in honour of his late father, Falcao has revived his playing career and been a crucial asset to a team punching well above their weight as they sit eighth in the table.

It was Falcao who scored the only goal in a game that will be forever remembered by Vallecano faithful as they toppled FC Barcelona in what proved to be Ronald Koeman’s final game in charge of the Catalonian titans.

In fact, Falcao’s last two league goals have come against Barcelona and fellow Spanish giants Real Madrid – perhaps the most fitting reminder of all that this is a striker still more than capable of mixing it with the big boys.

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