Colombia’s superstar striker Radamel Falcao scored his 150th goal in Europe on Sunday to take his team Monaco back to the top of the French league.
The goal was a perfect embodiment of the type of elegant, ruthless forward play fans and spectators alike have come to associate with “El Tigre.” He ran in behind the opposing backline and caught the ball with his instep, pushing away from the Lyon defense with a burst of pace, then the control and awareness to slow down, collect the ball, and look over his shoulder as keeper Anthony Lopes came out to meet him, before the deft fake and chip that left Lopes hapless on the ground and the ball in the back of the net.
Objectively, too, it left plenty to gush over. The goal, Falcao’s eighth on the season, kept him top of the French goal-scoring list – a list that includes the likes of Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The goal, which proved the winner in Monaco’s 2-1 home victory over Olympique Lyon, returned AS Monaco to first place in Ligue 1.
In the larger sense, though, the goal was another landmark in what has been a rapid ascent through the ranks of European soccer for a man who made his first start in the continent just four seasons ago, and last summer became one of the most expensive and coveted players in all of soccer.
In 179 games in Europe, Falcao has scored 150 goals, scoring at an absurd rate of 0.83 goals per game. His performances shot FC Porto to a top-16 Champions League finish, a Europa League championship (in which he scored the winning goal), two Portuguese titles and its first undefeated season ever. At Atletico Madrid his goals delivered a Copa del Rey trophy against a Real Madrid team it hadn’t beaten in a meaningful competition for years.
Since arriving in Europe, only FIFA Balon d’Or winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have scored more goals. And while both are almost definitely better all-around players, it is arguable whether either has elevated the level of their teams as much as Falcao has.