Colombia’s record goalscorer Radamel Falcao will line out for French side Monaco in the Champions League semi-final on Wednesday marking an incredible career resurrection in the space of just 12 months.
Falcao returned to the French club after two one-year loan spells in England with Manchester United and Chelsea, with one British media outlet labeling him “a rich man with a broken reputation” upon his departure.
12 months and 24 goals later, the Santa Marta born striker is closing in on a domestic title as he also aims to get his hands on Europe’s most prestigious prize – the UEFA Champions League.
Falcao will lead the attack for the French club at the Stade Louis II as they take on two-time winners and competition favorites Juventus, an opportunity that he is relishing.
“Not many players get the chance to play in a Champions League semi-final. I don’t know if I’ll get another opportunity so I want to make the most of it. It is a dream,” said Falcao to French sports newspaper L’Equipe.
“El Tigre” who was once one of the most feared strikers in Europe is again catching the attention of defenders across the continent, none more than Wednesday’s opponent, Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini.
“As for Falcao, before his injury in 2014 he was probably the best number 9 in the world,” he told France Football.
“What he’s achieved this season in the league and the Champions League shows he’s getting back to being the Falcao who everyone admired.” added Chiellini who will have the arduous task of containing the Colombian.
After becoming the only player to win consecutive Europa Leagues with different clubs, Falcao joined Monaco from Atletico Madrid for a club record fee of $65 million in 2013.
However he subsequently suffered a serious knee injury forcing him to miss the 2014 World Cup and endure a disastrous dip in form as he struggled to fully recover.
He went on loan to Manchester United for the 2014/15 season during which he scored just four goals in 29 appearances in all competitions.
He was then offered a loan spell Chelsea, making just 12 appearances for the Blues scoring just once in a season that was plagued by persistent injury set backs.
The striker came in for major criticism with Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper highlighting that he had been paid $1 million per shot by Chelsea, a spell that the Colombian identified as the most difficult in his career.
“Chelsea was the most difficult time,” Falcao said. “In the middle of the season, I already knew that I wouldn’t play again, because the club had decided I wouldn’t play. It was a frustrating decision because I felt rather good and I thought that I could contribute something.”
The Colombians’ move back to Monaco in 2016 was a turning point for him with the club establishing a young, dynamic squad with coach Leonardo Jardim’s advocating a free-flowing attacking approach, which has yielded an average of three goals per game this season.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, whose side were terrorized by the striker in their last 16 Champions League encounter claimed that Jardim’s system is perfectly suited to a “killer” like Falcao.
Speaking to French television station TF1, Monaco’s vice president Vadim Vasilyev praised the efforts of the Colombian to return to form having been doubted by so many in recent seasons.
“I have always believed in Radamel and right from the start of the season I was already saying that he would get back to his best form. Nobody believed it but now we have the proof.“
Monaco currently lead PSG by three points in the French league and have a game in hand.
They go into Wednesday’s first leg against Juventus in the Champions League looking to reach only a second final, where they lost to a Jose Mourinho-led FC Porto in 2004.
Falcao has scored 39 goals in the Europa League and Champions League since his debut in September 2009, a feat only surpassed by Messi, Ronaldo and Lewandowski.