In the heat of the Estadio Metropolitano on Sunday night, Monaco played their latest pre-season friendly in Barranquilla, Colombia, against Junior.
The game finished 1-0 to the French side, Dimitar Berbatov scoring the only goal of the game. Although he was the main attraction of Monaco’s visit, Radamel Falcao remained on the bench, there merely as a sideshow to appease the Colombian fans.
However, as the Ligue 1 season gets closer and closer, it looks like despite the rumours of a move away from the principality, Falcao will start the season for the Monegasque side, and right now, Falcao needs Monaco as much as Monaco need Falcao.
After making the €64 million move from Atletico Madrid to Monaco, the pressure was on Falcao to instantly provide Monaco with a goalscoring edge. He was to be the player who would lift the newly promoted club up the table to rub shoulders with Paris Saint-Germain.
The Colombian couldn’t have asked for a better start: He scored on his league debut against Bordeaux and went on to score seven goals in seven games for ASM. Then his season took a bad turn, a turn that would only get worse for the striker.
He only played 10 more games last season, and he only added two more goals to his tally, finishing with nine in his debut season. The dip in form was brought to everyone’s attention when he was substituted after just 63 minutes away at Nantes. His replacement, Anthony Martial, then had a hand in setting up the winning goal for Mounir Obbadi.
According to WhoScored.com, only substitute Martial touched the ball less than Falcao during that game; it was clear that all wasn’t well with the Colombian striker.
Falcao’s dry spell coincided with the emergence of his international team-mate, James Rodriguez. Claudio Ranieri brought the young star into the starting line-up and moved to playing with Falcao up front on his own with Joao Moutinho pushed higher up in the midfield.
The move isolated Falcao more, and it didn’t suit the Colombian striker’s game. Defenders were asking questions regarding Falcao’s ability to challenge the physicality of the Ligue 1 defences, and Falcao didn’t have the answers.
His season went from bad to worse when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a Coupe de France game in January. That was the last we saw of Falcao in a Monaco jersey, and many believed we would never see him play for the club again.
Falcao’s injury stopped him from playing at the World Cup in Brazil, and this setback has had a huge ripple effect at AS Monaco.
His absence allowed James to blossom at the World Cup, and after finishing as the tournament’s top scorer, Real Madrid have come in with a huge bid; the midfielder is set to leave before the start of the season, reports Tom Sheen of The Independent.
Monaco would have preferred to keep James and sell on Falcao, building the team around the World Cup star. Now they are left with a striker who struggled at times last season and a player who is still battling to return to full fitness after a terrible injury.
Monaco started with Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov up front on Sunday night, paired with Frenchman Valere Germain. It is a strike force that could be very impressive in Ligue 1. It’s not good enough to push Paris Saint-Germain for the Ligue 1 title, but they could form an excellent partnership.
If Monaco want to challenge at the top and impress in the Champions League, they need to keep Falcao and get the very best out of the striker who looked imperious when we played for FC Porto and Atletico Madrid.
His performances at Monaco don’t mean he is any less of a striker, it just means that Monaco and new boss Leandro Jardim need to find a way to get the very best out of the frontman.
For Falcao, this could be one of the most important seasons of his career. If he fails to find form in Ligue 1, the list of interested suitors will significantly reduce once again. Without scoring goals, the chances of a top club coming in for the striker will become relatively small.
However, if Falcao can find his goalscoring boots and impress for Monaco in Ligue 1 and the Champions League, his stock will rise once again, and he can look for that big move to one of Europe’s elite clubs.
The Monaco XI that started against Junior on Sunday is good enough to be an exciting and impressive team in Ligue 1. Without a couple of superstars, they will struggle to challenge for the title, but a place in the top six is more than likely.
With a motivated Falcao, Monaco would again be a very tough team to beat, and qualification to next season’s Champions League would help the club build for the future. It would also rekindle Falcao’s reputation as one of the world’s elite strikers.