Mere weeks after his exit from Manchester United following a disastrous loan spell at the club, Radamel Falcao could soon be making a surprise return to the Premier League – calling none other than Stamford Bridge his new home.
Recording just four goals in 29 matches for the Red Devils, Falcao looked dead and buried in English football last season. Much was expected from the 29-year-old after his prolific spells at Porto and Atletico Madrid, yet his arrival at Old Trafford from current employers AS Monaco on a one-year loan deal proved to be a very costly mistake, as the striker could never seem to settle in the league.
The inevitable announcement that United would not be taking up the option of making his move permanent soon after the campaign concluded was probably the most predictable football news story of the year.
However, while the vast majority of football fans would regard Falcao as a Premier League failure, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho thinks otherwise – and let’s face it, the man is rarely proved wrong.
The Portuguese revealed last week that he is keen to “help Falcao reach his level again”, indicating the Blues are prepared to make a bid for the Colombian striker.
The London club will undoubtedly be strengthening this summer as they prepare a defence of the league title, and signing a striker is believed to be high up Mourinho’s list of priorities. But can the Special One really transform the fortunes of a once-lethal goalscorer, proving that the “real Falcao”, as he put it, is not the one who floundered at Old Trafford?
The arguments in Mourinho’s favour are certainly credible. The key to the 52-year-old’s enormous success as a football manager is the complete faith he places in his players. He is a supreme man-manager who often selflessly deflects unwanted attention away from his charges, and has the air of a man who would be willing to put everything on the line to protect them.
In this age of obsessive tactical analysis, this is an often-overlooked yet highly valuable trait to have as a coach, and given how much of a battering Falcao’s confidence has taken over the past twelve months, a much-needed pick-me-up from the ultimate morale-booster Mourinho could be just what the forward needs to revive his career.
In a footballing sense, one can also see why the Blues boss finds the prospect of Falcao playing at Stamford Bridge attractive. The Colombian spent two hugely successful seasons at Atletico Madrid playing alongside current Chelsea stars Diego Costa and Thibaut Courtois, and the latter has made no secret of his desire to see his former teammate join him in west London.
A revival of the Costa-Falcao striking partnership which saw Atleti lift the Copa del Rey in 2013 is certainly a mouthwatering prospect.
However, as sad as it is for any well-meaning football fan to witness the deterioration of a former great, there is still that lingering feeling that Falcao’s decline is irreversible, and which even the magic of Mourinho can’t prevent. A succession of serious knee injuries would take their toll on even the most talented of players, and rather than being a one-off stinker of a season at Old Trafford, perhaps Falcao’s shortcomings in his debut Premier League season highlight the struggles of a man whose body has completely given up on him in a sporting sense.
Chasing the signature of Falcao is a gamble by Mourinho. He may feel it is one that can pay off – and it is often foolish to scoff at the Special One’s convictions – but it is an enormous risk nonetheless.
The striker is currently on international duty with Colombia at the Copa America in Chile – a failure to inspire his country and to improve on last year’s performances for Man United could prove costly if he wishes to prove a point in the Premier League next season.