The Colombia idol chose to move back to Spain in order to play at the highest level possible, a gamble that is paying off handsomely so far
Rayo Vallecano president Raul Martin Presa does not shy away when it comes to creating lofty expectations.
After the tiny Madrid club pulled off a deadline-day coup with the arrival of Colombia legend Radamel Falcao on a free transfer, the under-fire club chief certainly saw no reason why he should not set the bar high for his new recruit.
“From my point of view we are talking about one of the top three finishers in the history of football, along with Hugo Sanchez and Pele,” Presa announced.
“It is a privilege to see him at Rayo Vallecano and La Liga.”
Such praise would be hard to live up to for any elite player, and with Falcao’s horrendous run of injury misfortune, which has dogged him throughout what should have been his best years, one could have been forgiven for thinking that the ex-Atletico Madrid, Monaco, Manchester United and Chelsea sharp-shooter was being set up for a fall.
Instead, the striker has set about showing just why Presa was so excited to welcome him to Rayo with a dream start to life back in Spain, netting twice in two games to steer them to back-to-back wins this past week.
Both efforts were quintessential Falcao. He needed just over 10 minutes after coming off the bench against Getafe on his debut last Saturday to spring the visitors’ leaky offside trap and steer his shot past David Soria, sealing a 3-0 victory which could prove invaluable later in the season if Rayo are drawn into a relegation dogfight.
Just three days later he was called on once more as a late substitute, and again did not disappoint, powering a 96th-minute header home to down Athletic Club 2-1 in Bilbao, a huge result a the newly-promoted side.
Once he did manage to speak, though, he made it clear why he took on this challenge. “One of my goals is to make it back to the Colombia national team,” he explained. “We are fighting for a spot at Qatar and what better than to come to this institution which gives me the opportunity to play.”
“I promise to give my best, play with my heart and if God is willing, score lots of goals.”
So far, so good. Sunday brings another potential relegation six-pointer for Rayo against Cadiz, but the hosts are currently closer to the Champions League spots than the drop zone in part thanks to their new striker’s early heroics.
Another decisive performance for Falcao would also help swing the balance on the international front. Having missed the Copa America due to a niggling muscle injury, he earned a recall for Colombia’s last three World Cup qualifiers in September, appearing in each game as a late substitute.
In his absence the Cafeteros have found goals hard to come by, and if he is fit and in form it will be extremely difficult to continue leaving the national icon out of the starting XI.
His hunger, certainly, cannot be faulted; it has not escaped the attention of many observers back home that while James Rodriguez, another Copa absentee, chose Qatar for his next destination, Falcao opted to continue fighting it out in one of Europe’s best leagues in order to stay in contention for his beloved Colombia.
It is difficult to find anyone with a bad word to say about the humble, ultra-professional Santa Marta native, and as well as the Rayo faithful no few neutrals will be cheering him on over the course of 2021-22.