Is Falcao close to becoming Real deal?

Posted by Rob Train

Spain is a country of pacts. In political terms, it is the only way anything ever gets done, with the two main parties busy finger-pointing and blaming each other for the nation's current economic state, tired voters increasingly opt for fringe parties – or don't bother to go to the polls at all – leaving many regions governed by bizarre coalitions of greens, leftists, nationalists or any other color of the spectrum. In Catalonia, former Barcelona president Joan Laporta is his own one-man political party, Democracia Catalana, and holds a seat in the regional assembly.

However, his old sparring partner, Real Madrid's Florentino Perez, has a slightly different sort of pact with local rival Atletico Madrid. Although nothing exists in writing, the capital city's wealthier club has a tacit agreement not to poach any players from the red-and-white half of the city.

When Fernando Torres was at the height of his powers, he would never have considered a move to the Bernabeu, being an Atletico fan from his childhood. Raul Gonzalez was an Atletico youth team player when the Jesus Gil regime at the Calderon took the decision to close down its youth academy, so the natural choice for the fledgling goal machine was to head across town. Other players have crossed town, such as Santiago Scolari, so universally respected that nobody minded much; Jose Manuel Jurado, who was surplus to requirements at the Bernabeu having played just three times for the first team; and Jose Antonio Reyes, who was loaned to Real from Arsenal before turning up at Atletico.

The most controversial move was that of Hugo Sanchez, whose signature needed to be laundered through Mexican side Universidad before he arrived at Real in 1986 after his four years at Atletico, the last of which delivered the King's Cup and a Spanish Supercup to the club and the top scorer trophy for the striker.

Today, though, the pact is firm. Sergio Aguero recently admitted that had he been able to go to the Bernabeu in 2011, he would have done, denying claims that he had said he would never play for Real. But the offer never came. “Kun Aguero can go to any club that pays his release clause, except Real Madrid,” said Atletico general manager Miguel Angel Gil Marin at the time. “Florentino authorized me to say that they will never launch a hostile bid.”

Maybe not, but an offer Atletico can't refuse? Recent reports state that Gil Marin, Atletico president Enrique Cerezo and Perez had a cozy breakfast in Madrid last week to discuss the future of Radamel Falcao. The Colombian is the striker du jour in Europe after consistently banging in goals for Porto and Atletico, whatever the opposition put in front of him. He scored both goals in his country's latest World Cup qualifier, leading his side to within a point of Argentina at the top of the Conmebol table.

What promises to turn into a saga began when Falcao's father told a Colombian radio station in September that his son had always been a fan of Real. “His dream is to play for Real Madrid. Always, ever since he was a boy, he has wanted to play there. If he can't play there, his main objective will be England. He will change clubs at the end of the season.”

This was followed by an admission from Atletico that its prized asset would likely be sold next summer to help balance the club's books, as was the case with Torres and Aguero before him. But will Falcao buck the trend and move across town, if it is sanctioned by the hierarchy?

“There is a kind of pact of non-aggression between Real and Atletico and, therefore, I think it is forbidden to talk about it. He is a fantastic player,” Jose Mourinho told A Bola.

Falcao himself issued a swift statement after his father's radio chat, saying that he was happy at Atletico and “wanted to keep winning titles and to qualify for the World Cup with Colombia.”

Atletico has made it reasonably clear that it will not sell until next summer – and why would it while the side remains unbeaten so far this season – despite reported interest in a January sale from Chelsea.

Who knows by then what Falcao will be worth? The buy-out in question stands at 60 million euros, and it will take at least that to pry him from Atletico. Only three or four teams have that kind of clout in today's market. It will only happen if both sides agree, but if the climate of cross-party cordiality is any gauge of the two sides' thinking, Gonzalo Higuain should be digging out his agent's number.

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