In early July Chelsea signed Radamel Falcao on loan from AS Monaco. The news was received with a mix of surprise, confusion and derision.
Had Chelsea pulled off this signing in the summer of 2013 it would have been the signing of the summer: two seasons later it has all gone sour for a player who, on his day, is one of the most prolific strikers in the game.
A solid striker in Argentina, it wasn’t until Falcao arrived in Europe that he grew into the lethal player who became one of the most sought after strikers on the planet. Netting 41 times in 51 appearances for Porto the Colombian made the switch to Atletico, where he continued his rich vein of form, scoring 52 goals in 68 games.
Linked with a host of top clubs and rumoured to be Real Madrid’s main target, he made the surprise move to Monaco, their marquee summer signing. The move was met with scepticism, some saw it motivated purely by money, while others wondered if Falcao was simply using the French club as a stepping stone to make his dream switch to Real.
The intensity of the rivalry between the Madrid clubs makes hammering out deals a very difficult task.
Regardless of motive, the switch to France was a difficult time for Falcao: he was dogged by inconsistency before suffering a season ending injury in January, which also ruled him out of the World Cup. His future seemed unsure, in a season his stock had plummeted and the reports from Spain suggested Real had turned their eye elsewhere.
With the Monaco project crumbling he made a surprise switch to Manchester United, a move that would ultimately encapsulate how far he had fallen. In 29 appearances for the club he scored just 4 goals, becoming something of a laughing stock. Fans became disillusioned and commentators noted how little he offered the club. There were even reports that Van Gaal made him cry when he selected him to play for the reserve side, a humiliating experience for the veteran striker.
In May 2015 United announced they would not be exercising their option to buy him, meaning the striker would return to France.
It was his uninspiring time in Manchester that made his switch to Chelsea so surprising. Like the season before the clubs agreed a season long loan with an option to buy.
On first glance the move seemed somewhat bizarre; Falcao was coming off the back of a disastrous season and a serious ligament tear. However many more optimistic commentators were quick to highlight just how prolific he had been, the old cliché, ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ springs to mind.
A few months into the season it seems as though the temporary bad form is becoming grimly permanent. With just one goal to his name so far, coming in the dismal performance against Palace, the renaissance of Radamel seems to be some way off still. The tabloids are already suggesting Chelsea have decided against purchasing him in 2016.
In defence of Falcao, to thrive in a struggling team is nearly impossible, and no team is struggling more than Chelsea right now. For a team that was so consistent and reliable last season their current performances are almost incomprehensible, and to expect a new signing to thrive is these conditions is wholly unfair. If Eden Hazard is struggling, why should Radamel Falcao be expected to be replicating the scoring form he exhibited in a sensational Atletico team?
Out of Chelsea’s three strikers Falcao has the best shot accuracy (according to Squawka statistics) at 57%, 7% better than Diego Costa. His pass accuracy is only 2% worse than Costa and Remy’s. In terms of goals Costa has notched up two goals in 674 minutes of football, Remy has 1 in 310 mins and Falcao has one goal in 326 minutes.
Statistics-wise Falcao’s performances are no different to that of his fellow strikers and while nobody is performing particularly well, he is not vastly underperforming compared to his teammates. In fact Loic Remy has yet to register a shot in the Premier League, despite playing over 90 minutes of football.
Remy’s only goal came in the league cup while Costa has scored in both the Premier League and Champions League, and Falcao’s came in the 2-1 defeat against Crystal Palace.
Falcao is undoubtedly on the back foot, thanks to his woeful season at Manchester United, despite out-performing Loic Remy the latter is still widely considered a better option. Bookies unanimously rate Remy as a more likely top goalscorer than Falcao. Betfred for example have Falcao at 100/1 while Remy is 80/1, and Remy is yet to score in the league.
It seems that more than anything Falcao’s reputation will remain blighted by his spell in Manchester, and he will have to go a long way to shake off the memories of that season and his bleak time in France. It also seems that amongst this misfiring Chelsea side he will not return to the player who came close to scoring a goal per game over four seasons.
If we are to see the Falcao of old we’ll need to see him back home in Spain or Portugal, and hopefully soon.