Since he was substituted with 27 minutes left to play against FC Nantes last month, Radamel Falcao has not played a minute of football for AS Monaco. Speculation is now rife regarding his happiness in Monte Carlo and his future at the newly promoted club.
Both coach Claudio Ranieri and captain Eric Abidal insisted that the Colombian international is going nowhere earlier this week (h/t ESPN FC). However, El Tigre’s name has been mentioned in relation to a number of potential deals ahead of the January transfer window.
Monaco claim that the 27-year-old picked up the injury that has forced him out of the team’s last three matches when on international duty with Colombia last month report L’Equipe (h/t ESPN FC). The mystery thigh problem will also keep him out of action this weekend away at EA Guingamp.
Falcao himself weighed in on Thursday while at a public autograph signing session. He insisted to the assembled journalists that he is happy in the principality at the club according to ESPN FC’s Ian Holyman, contributing to the growing confusion surrounding the South American star.
As mentioned in the previous article, Chelsea have been heavily linked with bids for Les Monegsques’ star man. However, assuming that the current fuss is masking the fact that Falcao desires to play his football elsewhere, would a move to the English Premier League side really be the right one?
On the current evidence of his performances in France, it might not be the wisest choice.
Since arriving in Ligue 1, Falcao has been under immense pressure to not only perform, but also to spearhead an immediate Monaco push for the title.
Despite a bright start on that front, defending champions Paris Saint-Germain have since demonstrated their considerable title credentials and are now top of the table by two points.
Ranieri’s side are the ones in hot pursuit, but the imperious Zlatan Ibrahimovic and impressive newcomer Edinson Cavani have so far outgunned the Colombian and his new teammates.
El Matador’s quick adaptation to life in Le Championnat has exacerbated Falcao’s struggles, with both seen as similar figures having arrived in the summer for astronomic fees and playing in the same position. Cavani may have only scored two more goals than his Monaco rival at present (statistics via ligue1.com), but the Uruguayan has been far more convincing.
While the former Napoli man has thrived alongside Ibrahimovic in the physical environment of French domestic football, Falcao has suffered. El Tigre’s introduction to life in France has exposed some crucial areas of weakness in his game that had gone unnoticed at FC Porto and Atletico Madrid.
The Monegasque man shies away from physical confrontation where possible in Ligue 1 and has struggled with the battles he has to fight on a weekly basis with tough, disciplined defensive units. It is a problem not uncommon for foreign players when they are new to French football.
Ibrahimovic experienced exactly the same last year and took 45 minutes of his debut against a disciplined FC Lorient side to get to grips with the rigours of the domestic game. Falcao has not yet done that and, more pointedly, does not look like he wants to a lot of the time.
Another major criticism of the South American is that he contributes very little towards the build-up play for his side outside of the box. Without that and a desire to get involved physically and make the most of his imposing figure, Falcao is risking damaging the sparkling reputation that he forged for himself in Spain.
If he were to leave France for Chelsea and the English Premier League at this point, he runs the risk of arriving in another physically demanding league and not being able to immediately scale the same heights that he was used to with Atletico.
His fine reputation is a burden at this point. But Monaco's status as a work in progress is also holding him back as his fellow new arrivals are taking their time to gel into a truly cohesive unit under Ranieri.
Quitting the principality six months into a five-year contract would reflect badly upon him. A move back to another club in Spain, Real Madrid perhaps, would indicate that he cannot cut it outside of the limited, but more familiar, competition offered at present by La Liga.
Arguably the best solution right now is for Falcao to maintain his current stance, that he is not going anywhere, and get back on the pitch and return to form for Monaco. Nine goals from 14 starts is still better than a goal every two matches, but it is his attitude and lack of desire that has let him down.
Falcao still has plenty to offer Ligue 1 and has everything still to achieve at Monaco. Jumping ship at the first sign of trouble would be an admission of failure and one that could prevent him from adding to his stellar reputation.
A poorly planned knee-jerk reaction move to another league that poses similar sorts of physical challenges though could prove fatal to the Colombian’s reputation.