When Radamel Falcao agreed to sign for Monaco in the summer, his decision was greeted with shock and not a little scepticism.
In opting for the Stade Louis II, he was perceived as chasing the dollars (or in this case, the euros), rather than truly testing himself at one of Europe’s giants—a stage more befitting his audacious talent and a player of his quality arriving at his peak.
The move even prompted Mark Doyle at Goal.com to suggest that the Colombian was “throwing his career away.”
Over the last few months, however, general criticism has thawed. During Falcao’s opening exchanges with French reporters, and as the relationships have subsequently blossomed, he has articulated his commitment to the "Project" down on the Riviera.
He has also relished the switch to Ligue 1.
In a competition lazily derided for its lack of drama and excitement, Falcao has been a breath of fresh air.
His predatory play has translated excellently from Spain to France and he currently sits atop the scoring charts with seven goals in nine goals for his new club, according to Soccerway.
Monaco, incidentally, lead the pack, with 21 points from their opening nine fixtures. They remain unbeaten.
When Falcao arrived, he was joining a Ligue 2 squad; in the subsequent months, since that impressive initial marquee signing, the floodgates have opened and Dmitry Rybolovlev’s pockets are now awash with promise and ambition.
A whole clutch of last season’s title-winning side have departed, while a host of genuine European stars, spanning all ranges of experience, have joined to make Monaco a genuine force—this season in France, and on the continent in the future.
Falcao can now count Eric Abidal, Jeremy Toulalan, James Rodriguez, Joao Moutinho, Sergio Romero and Ricky Carvalho among his teammates.
Monaco are no longer a mere plaything, they are a very real threat to Paris Saint-Germain’s crown.
There are, however, bigger beasts in the jungle.
For all the financial clout and glitzy glamour Monaco possess, they are still dwarfed, both in history and status, by Europe’s elite clubs.
Real Madrid, a giant among giants, have clearly taken note of Falcao’s majestic performances in the playground of the rich and famous, and are keen to steal some of the magic for themselves.
On Monday night, speaking on Puento Pelota, a Spanish football talk show, Real president Florentino Perez spoke candidly about the potential of procuring Falcao.
"He [Falcao] won’t come in January," mused Perez, "but in June, who knows?"
Clearly basking in the euphoria and publicity that came with the high-profile summer acquisition of Gareth Bale, Perez has rediscovered the oh-so-irresistible desire to spend big that characterised his first term at the club.
He is a figure who has always had a taste for the extravagant, for the elite, for the "Galactico" if you will, and now it seems like Falcao is the latest name on his radar.
The Colombian forward would certainly "fit the bill" at Real. He is a global superstar, one of the undisputed finest in his position in the world game today, and has the star quality that would guarantee the immediate appeal Real seek.
With Karim Benzema’s future coming under near-constant scrutiny, it is not beyond the realms of belief that Los Merengues will be seeking a new centre-forward some time soon.
Benzema may be a favourite of Perez, but he has lost almost all of the receding support that existed for him among the fans at the Bernabeu, who have grown disenchanted with his inconsistent performances.
Carlo Ancelotti’s criticism of his forward—the Italian manager suggesting that Benzema doesn’t work hard enough for the team—also erodes his standing in Madrid.
Will Falcao still be at Monaco in 12 months?
A forward line containing Falcao, flanked by Bale and Ronaldo, with Isco in support could, quite frankly, be mesmerising.
As Spanish expert Ben Hayward revealed earlier in the summer, the two Madrid clubs, both Real and Falcao’s former side Atletico, have an agreement not to sign each other’s stars.
Could it be that the move to Monaco was little more than a knowing stop-gap before an inevitable move back to the capital next summer?
Back in 2011, Falcao acquired the services of super agent Jorge Mendes, a figure who has enjoyed a close relationship with Real over the last few years.
Bearing in mind, also, that the Colombian is a self-professed Real Madrid fan, it is perfectly believable that Perez and Mendes have agreed to reconsider any potential move for Falcao until the summer, in the knowledge and with the blessing of all parties involved.
In light of Perez’s revelatory admissions on Monday night, Falcao was quick to downplay any suggestion of Monaco being merely a stepping stone towards an ultimate ambition of playing for Real.
Falcao’s response to reporters, when questioned while on international duty were as follows, according to Sky Sports:
I can only thank Florentino Perez for what he's said, but I must respect my current club Monaco, where I am feeling very well…This is not the time to talk about Real Madrid's potential interest in me out of respect for my current club.
Reading between the lines in situations like this is a fool’s game, but regardless of what Falcao muttered to that attentive haggle of journalists this week, questions about his future will surely persist.
His teammate Jeremy Toulalan expressed a refreshingly pragmatic point of view when questioned by L’Equipe on the prospects of a Falcao switch.
Toulalan quipped: "In football you can never say never, you never know what is going to happen."
Doubtless, the world will watch and wait for the Tiger’s next move.