It’s all gone so wrong for Radamel Falcao. The Colombian striker joined Manchester United in the summer on a year long loan but has been unable to establish himself in Louis Van Gaal’s starting eleven. In truth, Falcao does not look like the player he once was and questions over the physical and psychological impact that his knee injury that rules him out of the game for over six months had are starting to surface. Now fit again, Falcao jumped at the chance in the summer to join Van Gaal’s United revolution and many expected him to be leading the goal scoring charts at this stage in the season. But with a return of only four goals in 22 appearances, his move is turning into a nightmare and the chances of him staying at Old Trafford beyond this season are dwindling by the day. United have the option to buy Falcao from French side Monaco for a pre-arranged fee rumoured to be north of £40 million but with the 29 year old failing to live up to his billing, it’s unlikely that they will follow through with it.
So what has gone wrong for Falcao? The injury to his left knee, suffered due to a horrible tackle in the French Cup clash between Falcao’s Monaco and 4th division side Monts d’Or Azergues Foot in January 2014, meant that he missed last year’s World Cup in Brazil. It was a devastating blow for the player who up until that point was arguably the world’s most feared striker. Colombia too were distraught at the prospect of not having Falcao in their squad and gave him up until the very last minute to show he had recovered and take his place. However it was not meant to be and Falcao along with head coach Jose Pekerman informed the public at a press conference just weeks before the start of the tournament that he would not be available.
At United, Falcao has struggled to get to grips with both the speed difference between Ligue 1 and the Premiership as well as the more physical nature of the game played in England. He has looked off pace when in games and has lacked the cutting edge that made him so famous in the first place. Van Gaal has not helped the situation by constantly tinkering with his tactics and randomly dropping Falcao to the bench in place of the returning Robin Van Persie or even youngster James Wilson. This has resulted in a further loss of confidence for the mild natured Colombian, something his former agent calls as the primary reason behind Falcao’s lack of goals. There is a sense of trepidation in Falcao’s play as well with the player perhaps slightly more cautious of stretching for a ball or riding a challenge in fear of another lengthy spell on the sidelines. Knee injuries can and have wrecked careers with a good example being that of Michael Owen. The former England striker never really recovered from his knee injury in the 2006 World Cup and looked like half the player he once was in the remaining six seasons of his career. At 29, Falcao knows that he has perhaps five to six years left at the top before old age catches up with him but another lengthy injury could cut that down even further. Like Owen, Falcao has not lost his predatory instincts that helped him to hit the back of the net on a frequent basis but he has lost a yard of pace which means that he will need to adapt his game slightly to compensate. Recovering psychologically may be trickier for the player but as the old adage says the best way to recover from a fall is to get back on the horse. Falcao needs to play regularly, he needs to be involved in collisions with other players to show him that his knee will not give out but most importantly he needs to start scoring again. Goals for a striker are like a drug, they give them fuel and confidence which in turn leads to more goals, increased confidence and so on.
He need to play consistently and at United under Van Gaal he won’t unless something dramatic happens between now and the end of the season. Falcao has now accepted that his United stay will come to an end in June with the player’s agent now examining the options available to him. A return to France would suit his existing employers Monaco who have lacked a reliable goal scoring front man this season. However it’s unlikely that Falcao will want to head back to France, preferring to try his hand elsewhere at a new club. Italian champions Juventus could offer such an opportunity, whilst former club Atletico Madrid are also rumoured to be watching his situation very carefully. Staying in the Premiership is not also out of the question with Liverpool, Tottenham and even Manchester City willing to take a gamble on the once great striker. Rumours of a summer switch to Real Madrid were floating around before his injury but the Spanish giants went in a different direction last summer. However they may now return for Falcao as there are only one of a few teams who could afford his fee and his wages. Regardless of where he ends up, Falcao knows that his next move may be the most important one he makes. He can ill afford another season on the sidelines which damages his reputation as one of the game’s best strikers. Falcao used to equal goals and he still can if he can find a club willing to give him a fair go and help him rebuild the confidence in himself.