Pitchside

Falcao’s woes show how money isn’t everything in football

Pitchside

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One year ago, Radamel Falcao had the footballing world at his feet.

He became a household name in 2010/11 after spearheading Andre Villas-Boas’ Porto side which won a treble of the Portuguese league, cup and Europa League.

A club record switch to Atletico Madrid brought more European silverware and a bigger stage to perform on, with La Liga regarded as one of the biggest top flights in the world.

Just when things looked absolutely rosy for him, Falcao moved on.

Not for a Barcelona or Real Madrid, not for the Premier League or Bundesliga, but for Ligue 1 in France, where the only thing on a big scale happens to be the spending power of Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco.

Falcao joined Monaco for a reported €60 million plus incentives last summer. Unlike PSG, Monaco had nothing but their chequebook, having just returned from a demoralising spell in the country’s second tier.

Being able to lure the likes of the Colombian striker immediately into their squad was to be their path back to the top of continental football – they were Champions League finalists a decade ago.

Alas, it hasn’t quite gone to plan for the club just yet. But while Monaco can dust themselves off, admit that all good things take at least a moderate period of time and look to kick on from next season, the 28-year-old Falcao may not have that luxury.

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On top of Monaco’s frustrations of not being able to dislodge PSG at the first attempt, Falcao has also had his season blighted by injury – particularly a bad one to the knee which has kept him out since January and could prevent him from starring for Colombia at the World Cup in Brazil.

It would undoubtedly be frustrating for such a talented forward to have to sit and watch his old club Atletico potentially shock the world and clinch domestic and European glory at the expense of their big-spending city Real Madrid rivals on television, before returning to the sofa in front of the same box weeks later for a month of World Cup action.

However, it is equally frustrating for a footballing community to see the downfall – albeit hopefully a short-term one – of such a brilliant footballer whose career has seemingly been dictated by the almighty dollar.

Falcao is a modern player in every sense of the word in that he is also part-owned by a third party who helped finance his moves to Porto and Atletico.

Falcao, a devout Christian, was in floods of tears as he returned to the pitch after his final home game for Atletico last season and it is easy to believe the transfer was not his preferred choice.

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As important as it is to make as good a living as one can, and leave football comfortable and healthy, able to enjoy a long retirement, Falcao’s case both in hindsight and back when he moved to France suggests there is much more to one’s professional pursuit of happiness than money.

His agent is Jorge Mendes, one of the most influential in the game, with a stable that includes figures such as Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Atletico support huge debts, including one with Mendes's company who helped finance their purchase of Falcao, and they will have been keen to raise as much cash as possible from their prize asset.

And yet, few football clubs in the world are happier right now than Atleti, thanks to the passion and work ethic of their players.

While their background is hardly true to the David v Goliath template, Diego Simeone and his troops have nonetheless succeeded in punching well above their weight without ‘doing a Monaco’ and using a blank chequebook as their means.

Truth be told, Colombia’s squad have the potential to turn a few heads at the World Cup, too – though many experts feel their chances of pulling off a run to the semis or even the final rest on Falcao winning his race against time to be fit.

Whether he does or doesn’t compete in Brazil, it seems as though his future surely does not lie in Monte Carlo.

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And while currency will no doubt continue to be his driving force, be it voluntarily or not, a rumoured move to Chelsea in the summer could at least restore the sensibility to his career path which led him to success at Porto and Atletico.

Jose Mourinho of course has had no qualms about splashing Roman Abramovich’s cash, but as the January return of Nemanja Matic to the club which flogged him years before for a fraction of his latest transfer fee shows, money isn’t what matters to Mourinho.

What matters to ‘The Special One’ is getting in the right players for the right job, regardless of how financially shrewd or carefree that ‘right move’ may be. Beyond all else, he has bemoaned the lack of an apex finisher in his current Blues squad. Falcao could be the solution to that.

And if the striker known as ‘The Tiger’ is to spend what is regarded as the peak period of his playing days (assuming his knee returns to 100%) majestically prowling the footballing savannah instead of being locked up in a fiscal cage at yet another European zoo, perhaps Stamford Bridge could be the perfect compromise between a money job and a much-needed sense of purpose.

Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter @liamhappe

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