Falcao forced to watch from the sidelines
Radamel Falcao's absence from Colombia's World Cup campaign represents a sad inevitability. Perhaps its deepest sadness was that the striker's positivity had him and his country believing he could actually navigate what looked an impossible road back from an anterior cruciate ligament rupture.
In January, after Falcao had received his injury playing in French Cup game for Monaco against French amateur club Monts d'Or Azergues Foot, surgeon Jose Carlos Noronha told Colombian media that Falcao had a 50/50 chance. "There's a possibility," said Dr Noronha. "It's not out of the question. It went well. The light at the end of the tunnel isn't small."
"I was very excited but now I'll have to support the team from afar and I wish them well, hoping they play a good World Cup," Falcao eventually had to admit on Monday evening as he was left out of the squad that starts their campaign against Greece on June 14.
Even allowing for revolutionary medical techniques that can have players back on the field within three months, Falcao's participation in Brazil would ultimately have been a severe risk. Monaco paid 60 million euros for him last year, on a highly lucrative five-year contract. It seems unlikely that the Colombian FA would have been able to foot the bill for his wages if further injury occurred on national service.
It is a dreadful shame. As a late developer who only truly began to hit the heights four years ago, and with a country that has not qualified for the finals since 1998, Falcao is to be denied a World Cup at the peak age of 28. Instead, Colombia's striking burden will be carried by Porto's Jackson Martinez, Adrian Ramos -- set to join Borussia Dortmund after the tournament -- and Carlos Bacca, who starred for Sevilla in this season's Europa League. Colombia are blessed with forwards, but none of those can match Falcao at his explosive best.
After winning a Treble in 2010-11 with Andre Villas-Boas' Porto, and scoring the winner in that season's Europa League final in Dublin, Falcao made himself European football's hottest striking property. Two seasons with Atletico Madrid saw him score goals at a rate that was only just below that of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo -- 41 in 51 games in his final year. Atleti's participation in this season's Champions League final happened in the season after they had sold off their prime asset, but it was Falcao's goals that had qualified them for the competition.
In August 2012, in Monaco, Falcao's devastation of Champions League winners Chelsea in the 4-1 Super Cup win had owner Roman Abramovich purring. Falcao's hat trick came on August 31, giving Chelsea little time to get a deal done, though there were rumours on the night that Abramovich was prepared to swap Fernando Torres, previously his favourite and a former son of Atletico, for the Colombian.
There was surprise when Falcao eventually washed up in the Principality. Abramovich had been beaten to the punch by fellow Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. Close links between Rybolovlev and agent Jorge Mendes had oiled the wheels of the move and fellow Mendes clients Joao Moutinho, Ricardo Carvalho and Colombian James Rodriguez were all parked in the tax haven last summer, too. Mendes has owned a third-party share in Falcao since leaving River Plate for Porto in 2009; such arrangements will almost always mean the player goes to the highest bidder rather than the club he actually might prefer to play for.
Falcao's links with Chelsea did not abate on his move to Ligue 1, and with Jose Mourinho, another Mendes client, at the helm there, it was expected that the Colombian would be the probable solution to the striking problem that Mourinho has rarely stopped moaning about, and had frequently hinted would be solved this summer.
That collision with Monts d'Or Azergues Foot defender Soner Ertek changed that picture, and now Diego Costa, once Falcao's understudy/partner at Atletico, is expected to join Chelsea instead once Spain's World Cup campaign is complete -- something else that Falcao can only sit back and watch.