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Radamel Falcao: making life uncomfortable for the big two

For years, the Spanish La Liga has come under intense scrutiny for being monopolised either by Real Madrid or Barcelona with endless debate on how the remaining 18 are merely spectators.

Falcao of Atletico Madrid celebrates after scoring during the UEFA Super Cup match between Chelsea.

Come the 2012/13 season, their domination of the Primera División seems threatened by the explosive form of a certain Colombian striker. Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao has taken it upon himself to make life ridiculously uncomfortable for the El Classico giants and the gold-plated chaise lounge they sit themselves on.

For the last seven seasons of Spain’s La Liga, only Barcelona and Real Madrid have won titles; five and two respectively. The likes of Valencia, Seville and Atletico Madrid have had to look elsewhere for silverware – either the Europa League or the Copa del Rey.

That only bolsters the fact that Barca and Real – the undeniable superpowers not only in Spain but world football – cash in on the talent, trophies and tributes. Add to that the burgeoning super-humans in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and there is a clear distinction between the crème de le crème and the rest of the crop.

Messi scored 73 goals for Barca in all competitions; Ronaldo, 60 for Real. They scored more goals than some teams did as a whole. But not far behind was ‘El Tigre’, who scored 36 in 50, as the ‘Red & Whites’ went on to lift the Europa League.

Shouldering the responsibility of a side that has always lived in the shadows of their more extravagant cross-town rivals, Falcao brings a renewed sense of hope. Earlier this year, he scored a delightful hat-trick against Chelsea in Atletico’s 4-1 UEFA Super Cup victory. It was suggested that Russian, Roman Abramovich, who owns the London club, was willing to offer £46m right away for the Colombian in a depressive stupor.

The 26-year-old has been prolific ever since he moved to Europe from River Plate in Argentina, firstly with Porto and then last season in the Spanish capital. Not only did he win the Portuguese League in 2011, he also helped Porto to the UEFA Europa League when he scored the only goal in the final against Braga. No wonder he’s called the ‘King of the Europa League.’

Having already managed 10 goals in nine league games this season, he sits behind only Messi and Ronaldo in the scoring charts. His contribution in front of goal has managed to keep his side neck-to-neck with Barcelona at the top of the table. Presently both teams are unbeaten with 25 points. Real sit two places further down in fourth, with 17.

Given his current form, it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that Falcao is in with a chance to win the Spanish equivalent to the Golden Boot – the Pichichi Trophy. But what Messi and Ronaldo do on a football pitch, they do consistently and on a regular basis; at the highest level.

Falcao scored over 30 goals without playing for either one of the ‘big two’ and giving credit where it’s due, that is a great achievement in itself. What he could achieve if he played for an elite club that competes for the Champions League, is an unreal thought in itself.

Falcao: a clinically lethal old-fashioned No. 9

An old-fashioned No. 9, Falcao has it all: pace, power and precision. Lethal with either foot, be it in the six-yard box or from a distance, he’s every defender’s worst nightmare. He’s even dangerous in the air, for somebody who only stands 5ft 10in. His club manager Diego Simeone believes Falcao’s form has him placed among the best players in the world at the moment.

Among 12 La Liga nominees on the 23-man list for the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or award, it would come as no surprise if he was in the top three when it’s narrowed down on 29 November with the obvious entrants in Messi and Ronaldo.

Come January or June 2013, Falcao may not even be in Spain’s top division. Constant speculation of a move abroad or a new contract fails to dissuade the forward from taking his team to uncharted territories.

Many have tried in vain to break the stronghold the perennial arch-rivals hold on Spain’s league. The likes of Valencia and Seville have come close on occasion. Now it’s Atletico Madrid’s turn. Whether they (with Falcao’s help) squeeze onto this sacred chaise lounge is a question that can only be answered come the end of the season.

A question already answered is that Radamel Falcao is what every manager asks for in a striker. The Colombian might as well have his name etched in stone; for it is one you’re not going to forget easy. It won’t be long before he is counted in highest echelons of world football; maybe even the same league as the Messis and Ronaldos.

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