Back in devastating form with Monaco after a couple of lost years in the Premier League, Radamel Falcao is approaching his 31st birthday at the peak of his powers. UEFA.com gives him his due.
What they say
“He scores and creates goals but above all he is the real leader we needed. We are lucky to have a player like him.”
Kylian Mbappé, Monaco team-mate
“Everybody knows what kind of player he is. He is somebody who can change a game. A player like Falcao needs to play at the highest level.”
Leonardo Jardim, Monaco coach
“He is a penalty-box predator – he knows the area like no other. He believes a lot in himself and has the ability to take decisions in an instant, like a true goalscorer.”
Jesualdo Ferreira, former Porto coach
“Falcao is a great player – his quality on the ball and the way he shoots is really impressive.”
Lionel Messi, Barcelona forward
“I’ve known Radamel since he was a boy – I had him at River [Plate in 2008], we won a league together. I love him as a person. There’s no ceiling to his ambition. He is a player who makes the difference – if he’s playing well, you have a chance of winning.”
Diego Simeone, Atlético Madrid coach
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International: 65 appearances, 25 goals
UEFA club competition: 47 appearances, 42 goals
European domestic competition: 302 appearances, 140 goals
Claims to fame
• Nicknamed ‘El Tigre’ by team-mate Gonzalo Ludueña at River Plate, Falcao sparkled in Argentina after being picked up from Colombian side Lanceros Boyacá – where he had made his senior debut aged 13.
• Signed for a reputed €4m in summer 2009, Falcao scored on his first four Porto outings and only failed to find the net twice in his first nine appearances. “I am in a great team with players who work for me so I can score; it is thanks to them I’m scoring so many,” he said. “Even I’m a bit surprised with how easily I’ve adapted to European football.”
• Finished his maiden campaign second in the Liga scorers’ chart with 25 goals (one less than Benfica’s Óscar Cardozo) and struck as the Dragons beat Chaves 2-1 to win the 2010 Portuguese Cup final.
• Had a stunning 2010/11 under André Villas-Boas as Porto won the Liga without losing a game and then added the Portuguese Cup and UEFA Europa League, Falcao grabbing the winner in the Dublin final against Braga.
• Broke Jürgen Klinsmann’s 1995/96 record of 15 by notching 17 goals in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League – the biggest haul in a single edition of any UEFA club competition, which Cristiano Ronaldo matched in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League. He said: “Being in my second year in Europe and beating the record of an incredible player like Klinsmann, who was a role model for me, means a lot.”
• Falcao remains Porto’s top European marksman with 22 goals (three more than Mário Jardel and Fernando Gomes), securing the record with four goals in a 5-1 defeat of Villarreal. “I will never forget tonight,” he said.
• Left for Atlético Madrid one game into the 2011/12 season with a remarkable overall tally of 72 goals in 87 matches for Porto.
• Became the Madrid club’s most expensive acquisition of all time when he arrived for an estimated €40m.
• Figured prominently as Atlético set a record by winning 15 successive fixtures in the UEFA Europa League from 3 November 2011 to 25 October 2012.
• Became the first player to register a hat-trick in a one-legged UEFA Super Cup as the Colchoneros prevailed 4-1 against Chelsea in the 2012 fixture in Monaco.
• Departed for Monaco as Atlético’s equal-fourth highest scorer in UEFA competition with 16 goals (four shy of Sergio Agüero’s record).
• Still the leading marksman in the UEFA Europa League with 31 goals (Cardozo is second on 22).
• Joined Monaco for a reported club-record €50m in summer 2013, along with James Rodríguez and João Moutinho. “It’s a privilege that one of the world’s best players has come to take Monaco back where they belong,” said club president Dmitry Rybolovlev.
• Netted nine goals in 17 Ligue 1 games in his first term to help Monaco finish second, behind Paris, and qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage 12 months after being promoted back to the top flight. Struck two in his first three matches the following campaign before being loaned to Manchester United.
• Settled back in Monaco in style this season, following his two years in England, with 12 goals in 16 league appearances so far.
• Bagged his first UEFA Champions League goal in 2,352 days as Monaco lost 2-1 to Fenerbahçe in the teams’ third qualifying round first leg on 27 July 2016; his previous one came against Arsenal on 17 February 2010. Ended the group stage with two goals, both versus CSKA Moskva.
• Good form secured him a return to the Colombia team; with 25 goals, he is his country’s joint-top scorer, level with Arnoldo Iguarán.
• Spent 2014/15 on loan at Old Trafford, yet mustered just four goals in 29 games and looked short of fitness. Louis van Gaal rarely started him, yet Falcao said: “Manchester United is a great club. I am very happy to be here and because of this I am happy to be patient.”
• A second loan stint reunited Falcao with ex-Atlético team-mates Diego Costa and Thibaut Courtois, but he failed to shine under José Mourinho at Chelsea and missed the second part of that campaign – under Guus Hiddink – due to injury.
What you might not know
• A defender in Colombian football in the 1970s and 80s, Falcao’s father Radamel García named his son after Brazilian midfielder Falcão. Radamel Sr later drove a taxi, often taking his son to youth matches in his yellow cab.
• Radamel Sr tried to get an English passport for his son on the basis that his great-grandfather, George King, came from Yorkshire. “I’m proud of my English blood,” he explained. “He was probably about 13 so I went down to the embassy thinking a British passport would help him with a move to Europe. Unfortunately we got rejected.”
• Falcao’s father’s playing career meant plenty of disruption for his family, and tough surfaces and hostile opponents helped the striker shape up. “I often remember Falcao coming home bleeding after falling over or kicking a rock,” his father said. “But he just brushed it off and carried on playing.”
• His dad’s one-time team-mate Silvano Espindola spotted Falcao’s potential after drafting him in to play for Christian youth team Fair Play. He felt Falcao had more potential than any player he had seen since Diego Maradona, saying: “This kid is a monster. We have a real phenomenon on our hands.”
• Lanceros Boyacá coach Hernán Pacheco remembered that the teenaged Falcao’s hero was Boca Juniors ace Martín Palermo. “Falcao would cut his hair like him and desperately tried to copy him. It wasn’t really about his way of playing, more his look.”
• The attacker eventually joined Argentinian outfit River Plate, studying to be a journalist during his time in Buenos Aires.
• Falcao helped a River Plate side coached by Simeone win the 2008 Clausura title in Argentina, though the two were also involved as the team finished bottom of the Apertura table that same year.
• He bore no malice after his first Monaco season was curtailed by a knee injury suffered in a tangle with lower-league Chasselay’s Soner Ertek in a French Cup tie. Responding to a tweet from Ertek, he wrote: “Don’t feel guilty about it. It’s part of football.”
What he says
“[After his second UEFA Europa League win] When I moved to Atlético many people said I was making a mistake – I’ve waited for this moment to tell them the mistake was all theirs for saying that. I’m just speechless, unable to describe all this: to have won the Europa League with two different clubs, and above all to be the top scorer two years running.”
“Messi and Ronaldo are certainly the best in the world. They are both unbelievable. I am very happy to be a contemporary of these geniuses.”
“You get injuries but football is something you have in your blood, in your heart.”
What he might achieve yet
• Lift the French championship with Monaco; he has won at least one domestic competition with all his previous permanent clubs. ASM’s first Ligue 1 title since 1999/2000, maybe?
• He won the UEFA Europa League with Porto and Atleti; can he become the first player to win it with three teams? Or will he lead Monaco to their first UEFA Champions League crown instead?
• He has amassed 31 goals in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League; nine more and he will match Henrik Larsson’s competition record of 40.
• With four goals, he is currently equal 16th in Monaco’s all-time European scorers’ ranking. He needs ten more to catch club record holder Viktor Ikpeba.