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Radamel Falcao: The Natural Heir to Gabriel Batistuta

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Radamel Falcao: The Natural Heir to Gabriel Batistuta

Since the mass globalization of the transfer market and the vast increase in South American footballers making their way to Europe to ply their trade, their have been a vast number of outstanding talents from South America set alight the continent.

Whether it be fleet-footed diminutive dribblers such as Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, rugged powerhouse defenders such as Lucio and Walter Samuel, or flying full-backs, typified by the lung-busting World Cup winner Cafu, the true top-class South American stars have added something that little bit special to European football since their arrival en masse over the last 30 years.

One of the greatest exports has been without doubt the man described by Maradona himself as the best striker he had ever seen play football: Gabriel Batistuta.

Grazia Neri/Getty Images

A vicious striker of the ball with either foot, with decent pace, an intimidating physical presence and no shortage of technical ability, Batistuta was for a point in the late-90s so good that he was deemed simply unplayable by some.

20 of Gabriel Batistuta's best goals

His strike rate at Fiorentina and Roma stands up to the closest of scrutiny, with 240 goals in 413 matches for the two clubs over a 12-year period. Moreover, during his time in Florence he broke numerous records, including Ezio Pascutti's 30-year-old scoring record, when he netted in the first 11 matches of the 94-95 campaign, when he also became "capocannoniere" for top Serie A goalscorer.

In Rome, he won his only Scudetto in 2001, an integral part of Fabio Capello's side, with 20 goals in 28 league games.

Additionally, throw in the fact that Batistuta remains Argentina's record goalscorer with 56 goals in 78 games, and "El Angel Gabriel" is certainly one of South America's greatest exports and one of the best No. 9s seen in Europe, not just in recent times, but quite possibly ever.

Today, there is another outstanding South American import, a man considered by many to be the finest exponent of the goalscoring centre-forward across the globe: the Colombia and Atletico Madrid No. 9, Radamel Falcao.

For my money, the 27-year-old, given his similar playing style and goalscoring prowess, has proved himself to be the heir to the legendary Batistuta in terms of being Europe's premier South American striker since Batistuta himself.

A wonderful finisher with both feet, excellent in the air, strong as an ox and with lightning-quick reflexes in and around the penalty area, Falcao has been a major success story since arriving in Europe with FC Porto of Portugal in 2009. 

The Portuguese league has often proved to be an intelligent "finishing school" for South Americans looking to make the indirect leap to one of Europe's main leagues, and so it has proved with "El Tigre."

His 72 goals in 87 appearances (over two seasons) for the Portuguese giants saw Falcao fire the club to a Primeira Liga title in 2011, as well as that season's Europa League, where he scored the winner in the final victory against Portuguese rivals Braga.

Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Six of the best Radamel Falcao goals

Having joined Porto from Argentine club River Plate—also a former club of Batistuta's—for a meagre €3.9 million in 2009, Falcao was valued at 10 times that amount when he moved to Spain and Atletico in 2011. Having sold both Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan that summer, Los Rojiblancos paid over €40 million to secure the services of the Colombian, thus making him the most expensive player in the club's history.

Falcao has since gone on to make that a figure well spent, scoring 67 goals in 85 games for Atletico and winning his second successive Europa League crown in 2012 in the process.

Atleti emerged victorious in an all-Spanish final, winning 3-0 against Athletic Bilbao, with Falcao scoring twice for Diego Simeone's side, both strikes acting as proof of his goalscoring prowess.

Bigger and better things continue to be expected of the Colombian international; A mega-money summer move to the English Premier League and Chelsea has been heavily touted for the prolific striker, whilst other admirers include the likes of Manchester City, Paris Saint Germain and Real Madrid (via talkSPORT). More recently, reports have claimed Manchester United have their eye on the Colombian also (via The Daily Mail).

If Radamel Falcao's career continues on its current upward trajectory, he won't be short of offers should he decide to leave the Estadio Vicente Calderon for pastures new, that much is certain.

Moreover, given the similarities between him and Batistuta, this could well prove to be only the start of comparisons between the Santa Marta native and the legend christened "Batigol."

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