Who is the world’s best center forward? Falcao keeps making his case


Radamel Falcao scored two more goals today, leading Atlético Madrid to a 4-2 win at Real Betis. The Colombian international’s up to seven goals in five Liga matches this season. Counting international duty and the UEFA Super Cup, Falcao has 12 goals in his last seven games: Messi-esque numbers.

Since moving from River Plate to Porto just over three years ago, Falcao has 70 goals in 89 games, having spent two years in Portugal before moving to Spain. With his success in Madrid (and his hot start to this season), rumors have linked the 26-year-old with a move up, with Chelsea perpetually in the mix.

The speculation, the numbers – the actual play in games – it’s all enough to have me wondering: Is Falcao the best center forward in the world?

The term center forward is a cumbersome one (most position descriptions are). What we’re going for here is somebody who leads the attack, playing at its highest level. We’re not talking about a Lionel Messi or a Cristiano Ronaldo. We’re talking about the forwards who play in front of them, along the defense. Some may be best dropping back to pick up the ball, others may make their money playing against the shoulder of the last defender. Regardless, they’re the men that give central defenders nightmares.

Three years ago, this debate would have centered around Samuel Eto’o, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and David Villa, with Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres perhaps getting a shout. Today, there are three who have a claim to this title:

Radamel Falcao – The best finisher of the group, he also has the best instincts within the penalty area. Fast, strong, great in the air, the only thing he lacks that the other candidates have is versatility, which may be more of a function of what he’s been used than what he can do. With numbers like those, why would you ask him to do anything else?

Edinson Cavani – Cavani isn’t as good a finisher as Falcao, and he may not have the Colombian’s penalty area instincts, but he can be just as good in the air, and when he lacks in other areas he make up for with his industry. The Uruguayan is capable of playing a more all-around game than Falcao, his effort allowing him to have an impact across the width of the pitch (and often, down its length). Since moving to Napoli two years ago, Cavani has 54 Serie A goals in 75 games.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Falcao and Cavani can define games by themselves. Ibrahimovic can also control them. He is the best playmaker of this group, having spent the last two years under Massimiliano Allegri playing as a trequartista at Milan. Of anybody on this list, he needs the least help winning games for you, allowing Inter and Milan to unabashedly ride him to titles. After scoring 28 times for Milan last season, Ibrahimovic has seven goals in his first five games for Paris Saint-Germain.

Perhaps Robin van Persie should also be mentioned, but as I tried to type out the argument for RvP, I realized he just isn’t in the same group as this trio.

Perhaps you disagree? Or have somebody else in mind? Have at it, below.

STREAM: Arsenal-Boro, Swans-Watford, every 10am ET game

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Mesut Ozil of Arsenal (C) celebrates scoring his sides third goal with his team mates  during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on September 24, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Six games take center stage at 10 a.m. ET in the Premier League on Saturday, with both north London clubs in action.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Red-hot Arsenal host Middlesbrough at the Emirates Stadium, while Swansea City welcome Watford as Bob Bradley manages his first home game in the Premier League. Leicester City and Crystal Palace do battle, while Everton head to Burnley, Stoke go to Hull and West Ham host struggling Sunderland.

You can stream each game live by clicking on the links below or above.

10 a.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Middlesbrough – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Ham vs. Sunderland – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Hull City vs. Stoke City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Everton – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Watford – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]

Bournemouth 0-0 Tottenham: Spurs stay unbeaten

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22: Adam Smith of AFC Bournemouth (L) blocks Erik Lamela of Tottenham Hotspur (R) shot during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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  • Spurs remain unbeaten
  • Bournemouth impress
  • Wilshere plays 90 minutes
  • Surman, Stanislas injured before game

Tottenham Hotspur remain the only unbeaten team in the Premier League as they drew 0-0 at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium on Saturday.

Both teams hit the woodwork in the first half with Charlie Daniels going close for Bournemouth and Erik Lamela clipping the post for Spurs.

Bournemouth’s high-energy approach halted Spurs’ usual fluidity as an intense game played out in the autumnal sun on the south coast.

With the point Spurs momentarily moved joint-top of the PL on 19 points, while Bournemouth on 12 points as they’re now four games unbeaten.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Bournemouth started very brightly and after six minutes they hit the woodwork. A short corner found Dan Gosling and his pull back found Daniels but the former Spurs’ player saw his shot deflected onto the bar brilliantly by Hugo Lloris. The Cherries continued to push and Callum Wilson was looking lively on the break.

Then Spurs hit the woodwork as a magnificent double nutmeg from Dele Alli in the middle of the pitch set up Lamela and the Argentine struck the post with an audacious long-range effort.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Spurs grew into the game as the half wore on and Bournemouth’s intense pressure subsided a little, and Christian Eriksen‘s deflected effort was well saved by Artur Boruc at his near post. A flurry of yellow cards then emerged

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]  

At the start of the second half Lamela fired over the bar at the near post as Spurs looked the more dangerous. Vincent Janssen replaced Son on the hour mark as Tottenham tried something different in order to break down a stubborn Bournemouth back line.

Boruc denied Danny Rose and try as they might Spurs failed to break through the Cherries rearguard, which saw Jack Wilshre (playing his first 90 minutes for over two years) trying to create as much as possible in midfield.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

In the dying stages it was Bournemouth who looked more likely to score but Benik Afobe headed just over as the Cherries’ final flourish didn’t yield a winning goal.


STREAM: Watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at 10am ET

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At 10 a.m. ET this Saturday you will be able to access NBC Sports Digital’s Premier League Goal Rush.

It will be available on the NBC Sports App, on NBCSports.com and on a dedicated Premier League Extratime channel as goals from all four matches in the 10 a.m. ET window will be shown simultaneously as live look-ins occur around all the grounds in the Premier League.


For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of NFL RedZone-like action from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window.

The feature game this weekend will be Arsenal vs. Middlesbrough and as goals and incidents occur around the league, you will be transported to the action as it happens.

More info is available here, plus the schedule for all four games at 10 a.m. ET is below.

10 a.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Middlesbrough
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace
10 a.m. ET: Hull City vs. Stoke City
10 a.m. ET: West Ham vs. Sunderland
10 a.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Watford
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Everton

China hires Lippi to take over national football team

FLORENCE, ITALY - MAY 29:  Marcello Lippi attends a training session at Coverciano on May 29, 2014 in Florence, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
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BEIJING (AP) China has hired World Cup-winning manager Marcello Lippi to head its national football team.

China’s football association on Saturday formally announced the hiring of the 68-year-old Lippi, who guided Italy to the 2006 World Cup title.

It’s the latest move by China in a national push to become more competitive in soccer. Under President Xi Jinping, a fan of the sport, China has set the goal of becoming a soccer superpower but its foray into football has so far been a failure. The men’s national team has qualified for just one World Cup, in 2002, and did not score a single goal.

Lippi replaces Gao Hongbo, who resigned after China’s Oct. 11 loss to Uzbekistan.