Radamel Falcao was left out of Colombia’s national soccer team for the upcoming games against the US and Slovenia as he struggles to recover full fitness at his current club Manchester United.
Once irreplaceable, the Colombian national team learns to live life without its most coveted player of the past decade.
Falcao’s absence on the roster for the year-ending friendlies wasn’t a surprise, as it had been clear the striker who scored 21 goals for his nation had no chance of recovering in time for the training camp.
But his omission has hardly been felt on the team led by coach Jose Pekerman. Without Falcao, recovering from a cruciate ligament injury in the left knee sustained in January, Colombia registered an impressive World Cup performance in Brazil last summer (reaching quarterfinals), and settled on the 3rd spot in the FIFA/Coca Cola World ranking.
Although his brief return in a Colombia jersey was welcomed with a lot of enthusiasm earlier this fall, Falcao’s relapse means business as usual for Pekerman and his players. The abundance of world class strikers on the team guarantees that few sang the blues in “El Tigre’s” absence.
But for Falcao, 28, the shadow looms larger, as reports in England suggest the striker’s fitness after the long-term injury is the cause for greater concerns.
Mysterious injuries and poor form
The Colombian center forward has gone missing with a calf injury in the last three games for Manchester United, and has featured in only two matches in the last six weeks in England.
The club’s manager Louis van Gaal said he didn’t know when Falcao would return.
“I cannot judge him now because now he is injured,” said the United boss, before adding “I cannot say when he will be back. It depends on the progress on his (calf) injury.”
Manchester United paid AS Monaco astonishing $25 million for the Colombian for a season-long loan on the last day of the summer transfer window. If Van Gaal wishes to make the move permanent, United would have to put together another $82 million next year. Moreover, the striker enjoys a salary of $440.000 a week at the club. Compared to the financial figures of the operation, his goalscoring return looks meager.
“El Tigre” managed only one goal in five games for United so far this season.
Although official reports assure that Falcao’s recent injury has nothing to do with anterior ligament rupture that saw him sidelined for eight months, his fitness is a mystery.
Last week, the Guardian added to the mounting speculations informing that Falcao’s teammates at Manchester are surprised the striker has to wrap his left knee up in ice after every training session. The article was accompanied by a picture showing Falcao in the locker-room with what appears to be an ice pack applied to his knee.
In the wake of the article Falcao took to Twitter to blast speculations about his medical problems. “One fool speculates. A few others lacking objectivity respond and millions believe lies. It is disastrous what a few fools can do,” he wrote.
The medical staff at the Colombian Football Federation explained El Tiempo that “what happens to the human body, after returning from a serious injury, is that it enters a process of adaptation. He hasn’t been playing for a long time and when confronted with heavy physical demands, it is natural to for minor muscular tears to happen.”
Radamel Garcia, the player’s father commented in similarly reassuring tone that “my son will be available next week.”
However, due to rising doubts if Falcao is capable of playing regular games in the English Premier League and the high costs of his potential contract, it is now believed that Manchester United won’t decide to keep the Colombian any longer than until the end of the season, claim British media.
For “El Tigre” it would mean a sour return to the soccer backwaters at the French team AS Monaco. If his injure woes were to continue, Falcao’s days as one of the most feared attacker in world’s soccer could be counted.
Falcao-less Colombia meets the US national team on Friday and Slovenia four days later.