The end of Colombia’s thrilling run to the World Cup Quartefinals only marked the start of the real offseason excitement for many of the team’s star players, including names like Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez, now being fought over by some of the biggest clubs in Europe.
The $108 million coronation of Golden Boot-winner James Rodriguez as Real Madrid’s new number 10 opened what is already shaping up to be the richest transfer window in the history of Colombian soccer.
After allowing just four goals in five starts for “Los Cafeteros,” David Ospina was the next national team standout standout to get scooped up in the frenzy. The former Nice goalkeeper signed a $5.1 million deal with Arsenal, where he can look forward to battling it out with the generally solid Wojciech Szczęsny for the starting spot on Arsene Wenger’s revamped side.
Since, the main focus has shifted to Radamel Falcao, the superstar striker and former team captain left off the World Cup team after a vicious knee injury saw him sidelined starting in late January.
It was just one year ago that Monaco brought Falcao over from Atletico Madrid in its own summer spending extravaganza. But even as early as last winter’s transfer window, the talk was already swirling that “El Tigre” would be bought out by the Russian oil money at Chelsea, where notorious soccer warlock Jose Mourinho was threatening to eat Fernando Torres’s heart.
Torres’s life was spared this summer, when Chelsea signed another Atletico Madrid man, Diego Costa, to replace him. And now it’s Arab oil money that’s taken center stage in the annual Falcao pageantry, as Manchester City, still reeling from Fair Play spending sanctions imposed following last season, is reportedly interested in enlisting the Colombian goal machine’s services.
Talks are said to be in the works for “a European transfer merry-go-round,” as the United Kingdom’s The Independent newspaper put it, that would send Falcao to Manchester on loan, for some undisclosed but presumably monstrous fee. Falcao’s fundamental ruthlessness as a direct scoring threat has always been well-suited for British soccer, and the defending league champions are looking for someone to fill in up top for the injured Alvaro Negredo.
Manchester isn’t the only team looking to sign Falcao, though. Before Manuel Pellegrini’s side was being mentioned, the leading candidate was said to be Madrid, where Falcao would lead a juggernaut front line worth about as much as the GDP of various small countries. Had the move gone through, and it still might, Madrid would have been the third team to feature the Falcao and James duo.
It still remains to be seen, however, whether head coach Leonardo Jardim’s stated desire to keep El Tigre in Monaco is genuine or a thinly veiled bargaining ploy. “Falcao is indispensable to Monaco,” said the manager, following Monaco’s recent 1-0 victory over Arsenal, in which Falcao netted the game’s only goal, on a typically merciless header — and they all are, until they aren’t.
After flipping James, Monaco has no real need for the money. And if the team is serious about becoming an international player, they will need to hang onto some of the expensive talent they’ve brought in. But with doubts still circling Falcao’s surgically repaired knee like turkey buzzards, and the duration of his recovery process uncertain, loan could be an attractive middle ground option.
In what has become something of a yearly ritual, Porto’s Jackson Martinez has been caught up in a similar rumor mill. This time, Martinez has been linked closely to, among others, Arsenal and Liverpool, both of which also went after him last summer.
For different reasons, Jackson would be a good fit at either — his ball skills make him ideal for Arsenal’s one-touch buildup; his speed and power could drive the Liverpool counter, now that Luis “Horse Teeth” Suarez is out of the picture — but given the whole 60 goals in two seasons thing, Jackson would probably be a good fit most anywhere.
Porto has hung onto the big Colombian longer than many of their previous assets, and the Portuguese giant just got Jackson to agree to a one-year extension valid through 2017. But the team front office has shown a keen eye for business, and for the right price, Jackson could be gone before the end of the season, when a $47 million release clause is triggered in his new contract.
Fiorentina speedster Juan Guillermo Cuadrado seems much closer to actually making a jump, with the Italian club buying out his full rights earlier this summer in apparent anticipation of a big-money deal. For weeks following a brilliant World Cup performance, Barcelona was seen as his eventual destination, but a reported $38.8 million offer from the Reds has since made Manchester United the alleged favorite.
Currently attempting to implement a 3-4-1-2 system under new manager Louis Van Gaal, United couldn’t hope to find a better winger if they contracted Ferrari to build them one. And Barcelona is in increasingly desperate need of a midfielder who can take on defenders with pace, something Cuadrado may very well have been put on this Earth to do. Both teams have different enticements to offer him, so from here, the race for the Colombian speed demon may very well be run by the checkbooks.
The aging AC Milan has a similarly grave lack of speed in its lineup, a deficit fullback Pablo Armero may go a long way toward mitigating. Armero has bounced around recently, but after a strong showing on the field in Brazil and a truly spectacular showing on the dancefloor, the Turbo native will have one year on loan to prove himself at one of the most storied clubs in international soccer.
Cagliari’s Victor Ibarbo has had his named tossed around as well recently, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the likes of Santiago Arias (PSV Einhoven) or Juan Fernando Quintero (Porto) making news in the near future, either.
Colombia came into the World Cup something of a guarded secret and came out an international sensation. By the time the Copa America rolls around next summer in Chile, the world is going to know a whole lot about these players.
- Manchester City transfer news: Manuel Pellegrini interested in Radamel Falcao loan (The Independent)
- Real Madrid target Falcao not for sale, insists Monaco boss Lionardo Jardim (The Daily Mail)
- Martinez set to stay at Porto, insists chairman (Goal.com)
- AC Milan: Why Diego Lopez and Pablo Armero transfers are vital for the club (Bleacher Report)
- Juan Cuadrado: Manchester United lead Barcelona in race for Colombia winger (The Independent)