Nobody can argue at this point how much of a brilliant striker Radamel Falcao is – after all his numbers speak for themselves. But the plaudits are not so widespread when it comes to taking out the cheque book and paying £50million to lure him away from the Vicente Calderon.
Chelsea, heavily linked to the Colombian, are pondering if it is wise to make such a huge hole in their budget, having just signed Demba Ba and bearing in mind how profitable their last £50million purchase has been so far. So it seems fair enough to ask: should Abramovich pay that much to bring Falcao to the Premier League?
In order to assess the situation, a quick overview of the number 9’s of world football scene seems necessary. Can Chelsea sign better? Cheaper? Both? When trying to name world-class strikers of the moment, not many more names than Ronaldo, Messi, van Persie, Suarez or Aguero come to mind. We could argue if they can bring more or less to the team, or simply something different, but they all are top-class players. Given that, none of them seem likely nowadays to move to Stamford Bridge. So questions number one and three seem solved by just looking to what is out there.
To the question ‘can they sign cheaper?’, the answer is an obvious ‘yes’. The choice broadens once you take one step down on the list of goalscorers. Higuain, Lewandowski, Cavani, Villa, Benzema…to name a few, are strikers in good form, some of them with margin for improvement in the coming years.
With El Tigre, you are signing at least 35 goals per season at a rate of 0,8 goals per game, as those are his numbers since landing in Europe. Having a deeper look at his stats and considering the fact that he is yet to play for a top European club only suggests those numbers can get even better.
It must not be a coincidence that many managers point out Falcao as the best player in the world inside the 18 yard box. Sometimes, behind the good scoring numbers of a good striker that plays for a secondary team – with all due respect to Atletico – we find out those numbers don’t correspond with an excellent shooting accuracy. Basically, the striker creates and finishes the majority of the team’s chances and, as a result, scores goals.
Well, that is not the case of Falcao. For example this season, the Colombian has shot a total of 88 times to score 21 league goals, to achieve an impressive ratio of 1 goal every 4.1 chances. Ronaldo has shot more than twice as much (194) to score six more goals (27). Falcao’s shot to goal ratio is only improved by the man that only competes with himself and history (Messi), who needs 3.5 chances to score.
Leaving aside the Argentinian and Portuguese giants, no one in the Premier League can compare his shooting accuracy with Falcao’s. Robin van Persie leads the list of accurate scorers with a goal in every 5.4 shots, ahead of Suarez (6.7), Demba Ba (7.1) or Bale (7.7). Falcao, then, needs less to give more, and if this bunch of numbers invite us to think something – that is the 27-year-old will score even more at Chelsea, as the creativity of players like Mata, Hazard or Oscar put at the service of El Tigre can only result in goals, goals and more goals.
If anything is yet to be proven by the Atletico hitman is his reliability in crunch Champions League games, as his experience in the biggest continental competition is reduced to the 2009-10 season with Porto. However, his appetite for European glory is without doubt, as his records in the Europa League are out of reach for everyone – two titles in three seasons, being as well the top scorer in the competition in one season (17 goals with Porto in 2010-11).
Besides that, his performance in European finals is hard to question too – one goal against Braga in 2011 Europa League final, two against Bilbao one year after, and a hat-trick in the 2012 Super Cup final that surely every Chelsea fan remembers.
He remains loyal to his current club and dodges the rumours, but Falcao is going to step up and sign for a top club at the end of the season. The bad thing for whoever buys him is that Atletico is aware that they cannot retain the player any longer, so they will make the most of the sale. If Chelsea want to spend less, they have two good options to reduce the quantity of the transfer – Thibaut Courtois and Fernando Torres.
Courtois is highly valued in Europe at the moment and Atletico would love to keep him. By using him in Falcao’s deal, the Colchoneros guarantee to keep him for a couple more seasons at least, and they could even end up making money by selling him in the near future. Chelsea could reduce the Colombian’s transfer by £20million and still have a few years left to find a solid replacement for Cech.
Torres will not reduce that much of the value of the transfer, but it could be a good opportunity to offload a player whose credit has run out at Stamford Bridge and whose wages will block other signings. Besides, he will always be welcomed at Atletico.
Therefore, £50million does not look as an obscene expenditure when looking at what that sum can bring to Stamford Bridge, and even less if other players can reduce the cost of the signing. It is up to Abramovich if the Blues invest that amount in covering the number 9 spot, or whether they go for a cheaper option. But he should bear in mind the product obtained will not be the same, and Falcao will not be waiting next season at Atletico.