Is move for Falcao the right one for Chelsea?

Posted by Mark Worrall

Radamel Falcao scores against Belgium.GettyImagesRadamel Falcao scored against Belgium in front of a watching Jose Mourinho.

Aug. 31, 2012. Having seen the Blues win the Champions League in Bayern Munich's backyard at the end of the preceding season, match-going Chelsea supporters had been in good voice and confident of securing another piece of silverware when then-manager Robbie Di Matteo sent his team out to duel with Atletico Madrid for the UEFA Super Cup at Monaco's Stade Louis II.

Forty-five harrowing minutes later, as Slovenian referee Damir Skomina blew for half-time, those following the fortunes of the London club had looked on in stunned disbelief as the champions of Europe trudged disconsolately off the field 3-0 down, defence blown away by a Radamel Falcao hat trick.

"Get your chequebook out, Roman," was the general consensus, and as the season progressed, the rumours that the Colombian hitman was on his way to Stamford Bridge intensified, with news emanating from within the club that Chelsea had turned down the opportunity to sign Napoli's Uruguay international striker Edison Cavani in order to focus their attention on securing Falcao's signature.

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By April of this year Roman Abramovich had sanctioned a 46 million pound bid for the player and a salary package worth 200,000 pounds a week. As part of the deal the Blues were also prepared to allow highly rated on-loan keeper Thibault Courtois to remain at the Vicente Calderon for a further season.

Football being football, a little over a month later Falcao signed for French Ligue 2 champions AS Monaco, a club managed by popular former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri, whose ambitious team rebuilding was being funded by billionaire Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev. With the transfer fee believed to be in the region of 60 million euros, Falcao signed a five-year deal with an annual salary reputed to be 10 million euros.

Nice work if you can get it, especially living and working in a tax haven like Monte Carlo ... but eyebrows were raised nevertheless. This after all was a player who adored the big crowds but who would now be plying his trade for a club whose average home attendance last season was a fraction over 5,000.

Radamel Falcao's pedigree is an interesting one. Having made his debut at the age of 13 (yes, thirteen, you read that right) for Colombian second-tier outfit Lanceros Boyaca, Falcao was sold on for $500,000 a couple of years later to River Plate of Argentina, for whom he would score 45 goals in 105 appearances. His performances for the Buenos Aires club had soon brought him to the attention of a host of European sides, including Aston Villa of the Premier League. In January 2008, Villa's then-manager Martin O'Neill tabled a 5 million pound bid for the striker, and Italian giants AC Milan also chanced their arm, but River Plate were holding out for more money.

Money is the root of many things and in this case it paved the way for Falcao to unfortunately become ensnared in a third-party ownership scheme of the type famously first witnessed in the Premier League in August 2006 when Argentina internationals Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez, both coveted by a host of crack European sides, were strangely transferred from elite Brazilian club Corinthians of Sao Paulo to perennial strugglers West Ham United of east London.

In July 2009, Falcao finally secured a "dream" move to Europe when Doyen Sports Investments, a private fund established by Jorge Mendes -- agent of none other than Jose Mourinho, and numbering former Chelsea CEO Peter Kenyon as among its advisers -- took a 55 percent stake in the player and brokered the transfer that saw River Plate sell him to FC Porto in a deal that showed up as costing the Portuguese giants just 3.93 million euros. Over the next two seasons, and in the process of racking up a phenomenal 72 goals in 87 appearances for the Dragons, Falcao was again linked with a move to the Premier League, with both Manchester clubs and Chelsea rumoured to be interested in signing the player.

Doyen Sports had other ideas. In August 2011, Falcao moved from FC Porto to Atletico Madrid for a massive 40 million euros, but then the Spanish club only had to pay Porto 18 million euros (in two tranches of 9 million euros) representing 45 percent of the player's economic rights, as Doyen Sports owned the rest. In structuring such a deal, DSI leveraged the value of their investment, which after Falcao had plundered 70 goals in 91 appearances for Los Rojiblancos, was finally realised when he was sold to AS Monaco.

The French FA prohibits third-party ownership and with the Colombian deemed to be at the peak of his powers by Doyen Sports, the decision was obviously taken to cash out of their investment which had risen a staggering 38 million euros in value from 2 million euros to 40 million euros in five years.

Thirteen games into his Ligue 1 career with Monaco, Falcao already has nine goals to his name and looks set for a stellar season that will conclude with the World Cup finals in Brazil. On the international stage Falcao has scored 20 times for Colombia in 49 appearances, and Blues manager Mourinho was in the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels last Thursday to witness his latest strike.

With rumours circulating that the player is unhappy with playing in the poorly supported French league, speculation has intensified in the past few days that Chelsea could be ready to launch an audacious bid to bring Falcao to Stamford Bridge in January in a deal that would see Fernando Torres move to Monaco. "I don't know if he [Mourinho] was impressed by what he saw," said the prolific Colombian after his side's 2-0 win over Belgium. "I hope I made a good impression on him." Easy to say when you've just scored a goal.

There is no doubt that Falcao would make for a sensational acquisition, not only for Chelsea but for the Premier League -- but is the timing right? While Blues supporters would love to see Falcao plying his trade at Stamford Bridge, many are of the opinion that there are defensive issues to address that should take priority.

Having said that, should Abramovich loosen his purse strings significantly for Jose Mourinho in January, few would argue that on a game-by-game basis Falcao could most probably help Chelsea score more goals than they concede -- and that is how games are won, to say nothing of silverware, and Mr Abramovich always has room in his cabinet for another trophy.


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