It's been two months since Radamel Falcao played football and didn't score. In that time, his 16 goals in 10 games have propelled Atletico Madrid up alongside Barcelona atop the La Liga table and helped Colombia to three vital wins in World Cup qualifying.
For his latest act, Falcao fizzed an emphatic, 90th-minute free kick into the top corner to secure Atletico their seventh straight league victory against Real Sociedad.
The familiar sight of the 26-year-old reeling away in celebration, jazz hands shimmering by his side, followed, and in its wake the latest round of superlatives from the world's media.
Wrote Sid Lowe, for the Guardian:
There may not have been a finisher like him in Spain since Hugo Sánchez, a specialist so clear in his mission, so fine-tuned, so efficient.
Falcao's heroics have become as predictable as those served up by Messi and Ronaldo this season. And, seeing as those two won't be going anywhere in January, the fiercely driven predator they call The Tiger is clearly the biggest potential prize of the winter hunt.
Not that many clubs can afford to go after him.
If Falcao does leave Atletico in January, we will be looking at a price in the region of $70 million. That would rank him among the 10 most expensive players in history and shrink the list of potential suitors down to just a handful of clubs.
Manchester City have the funds but are mindful of UEFA's financial fair play rules and seem unlikely to add to their glut of high-paid, high-maintenance strikers without offloading a couple first. It's hard to see all that happening in January.
Real Madrid are another of the game's flamboyant spenders in the equation. Any talk of Falcao landing at the Bernabeu must be tempered by the fierce city rivalry between Madrid and Atletico, but the fact that he shares an agent with Jose Mourinho and Ronaldo at least keeps the possibility alive.
And then there's Paris Saint-Germain, who shopped freely for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Lucas Moura and others this summer and have a seemingly bottomless pit of Qatari money to draw from. The talk is they'll make an offer for Falcao in January.
Here's what Spanish football expert Giullem Balague said of the situation, as per Sky Sports:
There's going to be an offer in the winter from PSG and it will be up to him if he accepts it. He's already got an offer on the table from them which will make him the best-paid player in the world, but he's waiting to see if Chelsea, Man City or Real Madrid are actually going for him as well.
The thought of Ibrahimovic and Falcao in partnership is certainly an appetizing one for the neutrals. And Brazilian Leonardo—as PSG's director of football—is just the man to sell his fellow South American Falcao the story on an offer if he spearheads a new European superpower.
But does a talent like that really further himself in Ligue 1—and by landing at a team in the midst of a French revolution?
I say no. Falcao is said to prefer Spain or England (Daily Telegraph), and a Champions League club in one or the other is the best decision for continuing his development.
Joining Ronaldo at Madrid comes with a certain appeal, obviously, but Falcao will be mindful of how Atletico fans will react and also of the uncertain nature of Mourinho's future at the club (maybe even Ronaldo's). Whichever way you look at it, it's hard to see that deal happening.
The success of former Atletico striker Sergio Aguero might be a factor if Manchester City are interested, but Falcao will not want to be used in rotation by Roberto Mancini. What's more, City may not even make the Champions League knockout stages.
If he really thinks this through, and should they be interested (why wouldn't they be?), Falcao's best option is Chelsea.
Some will balk at that, but if you've watched Roberto Di Matteo's team this season, you will have seen signs something truly special is emerging in southwest London.
The team that dragged itself to Champions League glory has been honed and sprinkled with genius, and represents a goldmine of opportunity for a striker. Just imagine the goals Falcao would score supplied by Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Co..
Mata and Hazard have shared 10 assists in Chelsea's eight league games this season. Atletico don't have a player with more than two to his name (stats as per whoscored.com).
Moreover—and it would have been unthinkable to say this just a few months ago—Chelsea perhaps offer Falcao the most stability of any of his potential suitors. Di Matteo is the man in possession and intent on building an empire. His squad is settled and his team is playing the best football in the Premier League right now.
The only issue for Di Matteo would be placating both Falcao and Fernando Torres, with Chelsea's current system only having room for one striker.
Seven years ago, it was Torres in same position as Falcao—as Atletico's superstar striker with Europe's finest circling. Could El Nino be squeezed out at Chelsea by a man following in his path, albeit without the stop at Liverpool en route?
One thing's for sure, if Chelsea do sign Falcao in January, anything is possible for Di Matteo's team this season.
Chelsea fans who watched Falcao rip their team to pieces in the European Super Cup know this only too well.