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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

After the fallow times Monaco goal-machine Radamel Falcao feels he is eclipsing his exploits at Porto

Colombian forward has 11 goals in seven Ligue 1 fixtures this season: "The Radamel of Porto didn’t score as many times as this."

Monaco's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring his side's fourth goal in a 4-1 win over Lille. Pascal Rossignol / Reuters
Monaco's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring his side's fourth goal in a 4-1 win over Lille. Pascal Rossignol / Reuters

Last Friday night, Radamel Falcao left the pitch at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille beaming. By the time he peeled off his captain’s armband and took his place on the bench to watch the last seven minutes of his club’s sixth victory of the Ligue 1 season, the margin had climbed to 4-0.

Falcao had scored half of them. He did his sums. “The Radamel of Porto didn’t score as many times as this,” Falcao, referring to himself in the third person, told reporters afterwards.

He could be forgiven for his elation at the way he has festooned with goals what was supposed to be a tricky, transitional month for Monaco. He has 11 now in the seven Ligue 1 fixtures since the defence of the title began.

When he talked about the "Radamel of Monaco", he made that figure sound like a different person - like a historical figure, which is how supporters of Porto, the club who visit Monaco on Tuesday in the Uefa Champions League, would certainly regard Falcao because of the epoch-shaping impact he had there.

The "Radamel of Porto" arrived in Portugal eight summers ago, a 23 year old with shoulder-length black hair and an Alice band to keep it tamed. He had been signed from River Plate, and because Porto are such experts at picking out the types of South American footballers who will thrive in Europe, there was a quiet confidence he would score frequently, at least in the Portuguese league. After seven goals in his first seven outings, Porto knew they had picked wisely.

It is that sequence of productivity that Falcao was referencing when he said the 32-year-old Radamel of Monaco was achieving things even the young flier of 2009 had not. Fact is, he could select quite a few periods from his career and measure his current run of form against them for that general sense of sharpness, of being in the groove strikers so cherish.

Falcao has been among the world game’s very finest centre-forwards for much of the past decade: in his two seasons at Porto; in his two seasons at Atletico Madrid, and for the majority, now, of his patchwork time at Monaco.

Part what made him look so happy this weekend, to delight in reminding Porto, his old club, that his current form feels a good as any, was the perspective given him by the fallow times. He had two-and-a-half wretched years, and those who remembered him power through defences, for Porto and Atletico had, by the middle of 2016, assumed he was in steep decline.

Halfway through his first season at Monaco, who signed him from Atletico in the summer of 2013, he ruptured his cruciate ligament. It cost Falcao a World Cup where he would have spearheaded an impressive Colombia.

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Even when he was declared fit again, he seemed to have lost some mobility, even his formidable leap to meet crosses. Monaco, looking to save on his salary, loaned him out to Premier League clubs.

He suffered further injuries and a nasty attack of an unexpected condition: anonymity.

Falcao, mainly used as a substitute, scored just four goals in his season at Manchester United, and just one – in 12 appearances – at Chelsea. If he ever uses the phrase "the Radamel of the Premier League", it will be to depict a very gloomy period.

The outlook since he has returned to Monaco, a summer ago, has transformed. He was the leader, main marksman and captain of last season’s title win and the run to the Champions League semi-finals.

And the remarkable aspect of this season’s goalscoring blitz is that Falcao is spearheading a Monaco who have just sold, in bulk, so many of his providers. A high proportion of his 30 goals last season came from passes from his partners in attack, Valere Germain and Kylian Mbappe, or from crosses arrowed to him by Benjamin Mendy. All of those, and the creative Bernardo Silva, have moved on.

Yet Monaco keep scoring. Falcao keeps smiling.

“It’s a good time in my career,” he says. “I prayed a lot for moments like these, to be scoring goals and playing in every game. I and my family are happy in Monaco. You can see that on the pitch.”