Both Radamel Falcao and Manchester United fans will probably always wonder if things could have turned out differently for him at Old Trafford.
He came to the Theatre of Dreams on the back of a serious injury in a transitional year when the club was well stocked with forwards. Had any of these things been altered, would the United faithful have seen him in all his glory?
We’ll never know.
Louis Van Gaal opted not to make the frontman’s loan permanent and now, as a result, the Colombian has been handed an unlikely second chance in English football; with the champions no less.
Chelsea pounced when United turned their backs. Could the move be a shrewd one or is the former Atletico Madrid man merely now an expensive bench warmer? Is Stamford Bridge the proper place for Falcao to conquer the Premier League?
At first glance it seems the 29-year-old has been added to Chelsea’s ranks purely as cover for their existing strikers.
Jose Mourinho prefers to operate with one central spearhead supported by three attacking midfielders. For much of last season Diego Costa was simply undroppable and unstoppable. Loic Remy proved an adequate deputy. For Mourinho then, Falcao is a luxury.
He will not need to depend on him, barring an injury crisis, but he will keep Costa honest and there is always the chance he could even surpass him.
The striker, who remains property of AS Monaco, is a goal scorer of almost unrivalled prowess in the modern game. In his first season in England, this was not evident but class is permanent.
Falcao’s statistics before his injury were staggering. At Atletico Madrid he bagged 52 goals in 68 games. During his two seasons in La Liga, one of the world’s top leagues, only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were more prolific. At FC Porto he was even more deadly, closer to a goal a game. He has terrorised defences in Europe’s elite club competitions and has 25 international goals to his name. If he can rediscover his best form, Costa might even be forced to the bench.
Mourinho has claimed that he will use the two together on occasion although this is likely talk purely to keep the media entertained.
For all his potential, the Colombian will begin the season as back-up. This is something that must have been obvious to him when he elected that Chelsea was the best place to revive his career.
Some are questioning his motives but there is no additional money involved, no wage hike that comes with a permanent deal. The London club are simply paying the forward on Monaco’s behalf. Therefore he must have a genuine desire to prove his doubters wrong.
Despite the competition for places, Mourinho’s Chelsea are still a club where a struggling striker can find himself again. The side contains Cesc Fabregas, master of the assist, and for all the envious talk of boredom, the champions boast an array of attacking midfielders that any forward would be delighted to have as a supporting cast.
When he is on the pitch, there is no doubt Falcao will have every opportunity to do what he does best.
Then there is the manager. Mourinho knows Falcao, he knows what he is capable off. The two have followed a similar path, from Porto to the Spanish capital to the Premier League.
The Portuguese is also one of the game’s most renowned motivators and a man who will defend his players to the hilt in the hard times. If there is still some ferocity left inside ‘El Tigre’, then there is no doubt Mourinho is the man to unleash it.
There are concerns that Falcao’s slight stature is what hindered his ability to impress in Manchester, but the former River Plate man is deceptively good in the air despite his small build – Chelsea defenders Gary Cahill and John Terry informed their boss that he proved a difficult customer last term despite his barren run.
It might take a while before Falcao gets his opportunity, but he remains one of the game’s top marksmen and Mourinho will help him prove this before the season is out.