Fal­cao’s strong form jus­ti­fies Monaco’s de­ci­sion to keep him

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

One of the best moves of the sum­mer trans­fer win­dow in France was Radamel Fal­cao’s de­ci­sion to stay at Monaco, rather than to take an­other loan spell some­where.

Four goals in two games last week un­der­lined his strong re­turn to form — he has been re­called by Colom­bia’s na­tional team — yet it was a goal Fal­cao had dis­al­lowed that of­fered a bet­ter glimpse he is some­where back to his best.

Late in the first half against Nancy last Satur­day, his strike part­ner Valere Ger­main had a header saved.

The ball fell to Fal­cao, who was to the right of six-yard box, off bal­ance and with­out a clear shoot­ing chance. In a flash, he ex­pertly dragged the ball back, span around nim­bly and still had the pres­ence of mind to art­fully glide the ball into the mid­dle of the net.

It would have been his hat trick but was ruled out for off­side. Yet it showed that his in­stinct is re­turn­ing and that he has con­fi­dence in his body again.

“He re­mains one of the best strik­ers. He’s only 30 (years old),” Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim said. “Our ob­jec­tive is to get him back to his (best) level.”

It has been a dif­fi­cult re­turn from in­jury and loss of form for Fal­cao, once ar­guably the most lethal poacher in the world when with Atletico Madrid. He had scored 72 goals in 87 games for Porto when Atletico snapped him up in the sum­mer of 2011, and in two sea­sons for Atletico he net­ted 70 goals in 91 games, win­ning the Europa League and the Span­ish Cup.

Fal­cao joined Monaco in May 2013 a deal worth 60 mil­lion eu­ros ($67 mil­lion) and net­ted 11 in 19 games.

But in Jan­uary, 2014 he tore his an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment play­ing in a French Cup game. He would nor­mally have been rested against non-league Chas­se­lay, but in­sisted on play­ing. The de­fender who in­jured him — Soner Ertek — re­ceived a stream of vit­ri­olic threats on so­cial me­dia from irate fans and the club’s pres­i­dent said a hate­ful let­ter was even sent from Colom­bia.

Fal­cao missed the World Cup later that year and his ca­reer nose­dived.

He joined Manch­ester United and then Chelsea — both on loans. But his pace had gone, he looked un­happy and dras­ti­cally low on con­fi­dence. He man­aged just four league goals for United and one for Chelsea — where nine of his 10 league ap­pear­ances were as sub­sti­tute.

Jardim crit­i­cized Fal­cao’s de­ci­sion to move to the Premier League when clearly not ready for its hugely phys­i­cal de­mands.

“He tried to keep play­ing at a high level. Nor­mally, when a player is in­jured he doesn’t change club,” Jardim said. “It’s not easy to re­cover and to play at the same time. Play­ers are not ma­chines.”

This sea­son, Fal­cao has scored eight goals in 10 games for Monaco and is cap­tain.

He needs one more goal in up­com­ing World Cup qual­i­fiers against Chile or Ar­gentina to be­come Colom­bia’s all-time top scorer.

“I’ve worked hard to be able to re­turn to the na­tional team,” said Fal­cao, who has 25 in­ter­na­tional goals.

Jardim, a Por­tuguese coach in his third sea­son in charge, has turned sec­ond-place Monaco into an at­trac­tive, high-scor­ing team with 36 goals in 12 league games.

Though 13 dif­fer­ent play­ers have scored in the league, it’s the part­ner­ship be­tween Fal­cao and Ger­main that stands out.

The un­her­alded Ger­main was loaned to Nice last sea­son af­ter two in­con­sis­tent cam­paigns with Monaco.

Lead­ing the line, he scored a com­mend­able 14 league goals for Nice and, just like Fal­cao, re­turned. They have gelled. Although Ger­main lacks pace and is not a great fin­isher, he has out­stand­ing move­ment, aware­ness and touch — mak­ing him the per­fect foil for Fal­cao’s ro­bust yet tech­ni­cally as­sured style.

In par­tic­u­lar, the clever tim­ing of Ger­main’s wide runs gives Fal­cao the space to quickly take up cen­tral po­si­tions. Against CSKA Moscow last Wed­nes­day, Ger­main peeled away from the right of the de­fense be­fore slot­ting a re­verse pass for Fal­cao’s sec­ond goal in a 3-0 win.

It summed up the un­der­stand­ing that makes the Colom­bia striker op­ti­mistic about the sea­son ahead.

“The more I play, the bet­ter I’ll get,” Fal­cao said.

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