Radamel Falcao García

World Cup dream might not be over for Fredy Montero

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Among the list of reasons (stated or unstated) that Fredy Montero went on loan to Sporting Lisbon last summer was so that the Colombian would have a greater chance of getting to the 2014 World Cup. At 26, Montero still has time to get himself in line for Russia 2018, but it seems the chances of reaching Brazil might not be completely out of reach.

Over the last couple days, stories have been appearing in Portuguese media about Colombia national team coach José Pékerman not having ruled out Montero joining the side in Brazil. Speaking after his side’s victory over Belgium on Thursday, Pékerman alluded to following the former Seattle man’s performances. The coach said that Montero has been doing very well in Portugal, and the Colombian coaching team would continue to follow his progress.

In fact, Montero has flourished since joining up with Sporting. He scored a hat-trick on his debut, endeared himself to his new club’s supporters with a goal against rivals Benfica, and has now scored 12 goals in 11 games in Portugal. Montero’s even made the list of players competing for Europe’s Golden Boot.

Yes, there might be stiff competition for a spot on Colombia’s national team — after all, this is a side that boasts Jackson Martínez and Radamel Falcao up front — but Montero’s performances are deserving of at least a chance with los cafeteros.

There’s just one more thing. With Obafemi Martins also likely to be keen on joining up with his national side, now that Nigeria have qualified for the World Cup, could the Sounders see another of their stars head off on loan? Or lose one altogether?

Monaco suffers first setback, held to scoreless draw by Toulouse

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The degree to which today’s result is a true setback depends on how much you deny the inherent nature of this spot. At any point at the top-level, one team’s always capable of shutting down another, provided they embrace one cynical yet undeniable truth: It’s really, really hard to score a goal when 11 men are committed to denying you.

When you get down to it, that’s the thing stereotyped mainstream American sport fan hates most about soccer. It’s not the fact you can’t use your hands (that’s just easier to articulate). To a certain extent, it’s the low scoring, but really, it’s the fact that such an asymmetrical approach can be rewarded.

And it’s true. At times in soccer, you only have to play part of the game to get a result (and if the game didn’t have draws, those approaches wouldn’t be rewarded).

Take today’s match in Monaco. Visiting Toulouse, playing in front of an empty stadium (the fallout from a pitch invasion last year), les Pitcheons didn’t even put a shot on goal. That they only tried three times speaks to their approach. It was defense first for Alain Casanova’s team, an approach that paid off with a 0-0 result at Stade Louis II.

Monaco came close a number of times in the first half, the game serving as a simultaneous mirror to Borussia Dortmund’s 2:30 p.m. ET kickoff against Werder Bremen. But whereas BVB eventually broke through, Monaco’s closest chance came near full time, when defensive midfielder Jeremy Toulalan rattled the crossbar from 24 yards out.

Often these FourFourTwo StatsZone shots can be deceptive, but tonight, Monaco’s draw with Toulouse truly did look something like:

source:

Monaco’s going to have to get used to this, though. They may be in their first season back at the top flight, but when you spend as much as they have, when you acquire the likes to Radamel Falcao, Toulalan, James Rodríguez and Joao Moutinho, people are going to be deferential – especially after you’ve won your first two league games by a combined score of 6-1.

At the same time, it’s nothing to worry about. If Monaco was dominating play but not converting control into chance, Claudio Ranieri would have reason for concern. Instead, it took some sprawling efforts from Ali Ahamada in Friday’s first half to keep Toulouse in the game. And in the early execution and organization Monaco’s shown with their revamped squad, Ranieri’s team seems ahead of schedule.

Maybe Lyon will have something to say about the prospect of a French Big Two. Perhaps next week, Monaco will be put in their place at Marseille. For now, though, Monaco’s doing their part to create Europe’s latest duopoly.

Radamel Falcao inching toward AS Monaco move, to undergo physical on Monday

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With the same uncomfortable potential of a middle-aged divorcée driving a new Porsche to the family reunion, Dmitry Robolovlev and AS Monaco appear ready to translate more than $77.5 million in aspiration and overcompensation into one of the world’s best attackers, with Atlético Madrid’s Radamel Falcao on the verge of completing a transfer that’s been rumored throughout most of the month. A predatory, traditional number nine during a time when the concept of the position has begun to morph, the 27-year-old Colombian would immediately rival Paris Saint-Germain’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the most potent threat in Ligue 1.

England’s Press Association, citing sources out of Spain, claim Falcao is headed to the Mediterranean principality for a Monday physical, undoubtedly motivated by the type of millions that can compensate for joining a team that’s just been promoted from a country’s second division. Then again, Falcao is a former River Plate man, so perhaps the Millionarios attacker has a soft spot for second-division competition trying to recapture past glory. With seven Ligue 1 titles and a Champions League final appearance in their history books, Monaco certainly fit that mold.

As we discussed last Saturday, the implications of Falcao’s capture extend beyond signing one of the world’s best strikers. As assistant coach Jean Petit notes, luring a player of Falcao’s reputation serves as a drawing card for other players – an excuse to go. While Monaco have already secured the transfers of Porto’s Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez, Falcao’s is the kind of move that would prompt other players at prominent clubs to ask: ‘If Monaco’s good enough for Falcao, then isn’t it good enough for me?”

Petit, speaking Friday on French radio:

“Yes, we are expecting Falcao and four or five other players of his quality. We have spoken and we continue to speak with Falcao and his representatives. Negotiations are ongoing. We hope to seal a deal as soon as possible.

“Monaco need a player like Falcao because he can help us a lot and because he can attract other top players, and that’s the best way of confirming our project is big and interesting.

“Signing Falcao is a big coup on sporting and media levels for French football.”

The $77.5 million, or €60 million, is the buyout in Falcao’s contract, a huge boon for Atlético, financially. Yet it’s only part of the package required to lure the Colombian from Madrid. With Manchester United and Chelsea previously connected with a potential move, Falcao’s undoubtedly expecting wages commensurate with the European clubs he’s passing on to join Ligue 1Given Ibrahimovic makes around $18 million, Monaco’s total outlay for Falcao may stretch into the $120-$140 million range, once wages are considered.

Radamal Falcao and the specter of AS Monaco

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A week ago, the possible move of Colombian international Radamel Falcao to AS Monaco seemed farcical. Monaco, currently in France’s Ligue 2 (but due to be promoted), may have a Russian oligarch’s backing while allowing their players to enjoy the income tax-free lifestyle, but it was difficult to believe a player of Falcao’s caliber – somebody who would be coveted by most clubs in the world – would move to a team that’s just rejoining first division soccer. The only thing giving credence to this rumor was the “reportedly” €60 million price Monaco’s willing to pay, but with the exception of Samuel Eto’o (who moved to Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala two years ago), nobody of Falcao’s caliber has taken themselves so far down the European pecking order.

Monaco does have a pedigree of sorts. They’ve won seven French titles, though their last came 13 years ago. They’ve won five French Cups, a League Cup, and perhaps most famously (outside of France), they’ve made two European titles: the 1992 Cup Winners’ Cup, and the 2004 Champions League final.

It’s a stretch to think that history explains his deal. Owner Dmitry Rybolovlev’s billions partially do, as does the fact that Monaco’s millionaire’s playground is in a France. Not Dagestan. Not the Middle East. Not China. Players can stay in Europe to collect their huge wages, which is why players like Joao Moutinho, James Rodríguez, Jackson Martínez, and Victor Valdes are also being linked with the club.

But the real drive behind these moves may be something even more controversial than Monaco’s billions. Falcao is represented and partially-owned by Jorge Mendes, whose third-party ownership of the Atletico star gives the agent undo influence over the deal. He can essentially, broker a deal to sell Falcao’s rights to Monaco, a deal which, according to rumors, could see more Mendes players land spots with Monaco.

That third-party specter (and the control that comes with it) is going to sour a lot of fans on this move, but like it or not, third-party ownership is a prevalent part of the modern game, particularly with players from South America. Rather than bemoan an arrangement that deserves more than a one sentence missive, I, perhaps perversely, want to focus on a silver lining.

With the recent, huge amounts of cash being infused into European soccer, there’s a danger of all the world’s best players being consolidated onto a handful of teams. Chelsea and the Manchesters in England, the big two in Spain, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain can compete for any players they want. If a player’s willing to go East, Zenit St. Petersburg and Anzhi Makhachkala come into play. Beyond that, Europe’s becoming a bit of a feeder system.

Like third-party ownership, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. What might change, however, is the number of players in the game. Just as Paris-Saint Germain has built quickly thanks to Qatari investment, Monaco can also help expand the ranks of Europe’s elite, stretching the top talent beyond the handful of teams to which they’re currently being funneled. Yes, that brings Super League discussion back into play, and news of this sort always brings fans only slightly older than myself coming out of their dens with dusty VHS cassettes, ready to show you soccer before it went corporate. At some point, however, we have to toss out the VCRs and accept it. The world changes.

For Monaco, Radamel Falcao would be a great start, and a star of his caliber could justify others’ decisions to go. It becomes much easier of a Moutinho or Valdes to take a chance on Monaco when they know a true, marquee start has already signed on, no matter the means by which he did so.

That, admittedly, is a very thin sliver lining. In a way, it’s a head in the sand approach, though with little to gain by continuing to harp on old tropes, it may be better to focus on whatever obscure positives you can grasp. In this case, that’s the building of a new contender, should Monaco actually pull of this Falcao coup.

Fourteen years of derby failure continue for Atletico Madrid

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As others have pointed out, last night was the perfect time for Atletico. Rival Real Madrid visited the Vicente Calderon hafter their mid-week embarrassment at Borussia Dortmund. Set for the second leg of their Champions League semifinal on Tuesday, José Mourinho’s side would likely make huge changes for the battle between Spain’s second place side and third place hope. If the Atleti were going to end 14 years of frustration, Saturday was going to be it.

And in case you’re having trouble putting 14 years in perspective, here’s Dermot Corrigan:

Almost 14 years. Or 704 weeks. Or 4,929 days. Or 24 games. They have all passed since the Atletico’s last win over city rivals Real Madrid, a 3-1 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on October 10, 1999, with Claudio Ranieri on the visitors’ bench and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink [2] and Jose Mari on the scoresheet.

John Toshack was Real Madrid manager, Radamel Falcao had recently made his senior debut for Lanceros Boyaca aged just 13 at home in Colombia, and Diego Simeone was on the way to winning the Serie A title as a midfielder for Lazio.

That Atletico still fell 2-1 on Saturday makes you wonder if Atletico Madrid will ever beat El Real.

They’re bound to beat them at some point, but that’s not how most of our minds work. We tend to think in clear-cut, absolute scenarios that breach logic and rest in emotion. At some point, though, have to take those thoughts, lift them from the mire, and evaluate them for what they are.

Once we do that, we discern that 14 years is already an improbable run – one that’s bound to end on pure chance alone — though that doesn’t soften the blow of last night’s loss. Atletico came into the match three points back of Real, only a win separating them from their shot at passing the Merengues by season’s end. To finish above their rivals would have been huge, as would a derby win have been, and after three minutes, the Rojiblancos had reason to believe it would happen. Falcao had put them up. They were at home. Real Madrid was reeling. This was going to happen.

But Juanfran’s own goal gave that lead back quickly, and in the second half, Angel Di Maria beat Thibaut Courtois for the winner. Just like that, and in spite of all the reasons Colchoneros had to hope, this became just another derby for Atletico.

Thanks to Falcao, many see this Atletico team as being one of their strongest of the last 14 years. If it’s not the best, then only the teams of Diego Forlan and Kun Aguero could compete, though those sides never could reach their potential in league (despite a Europa League win in 2009-10). Whereas for much of the last 14 years Atletico have been a mid-table side (with a brief stint in the second division early last decade), recent teams have proven much more capable.

Apparently those capabilities entail winning Europa Leagues but not Derbies Madrileños, a sobering thought ahead of May 17’s Copa del Rey final. There the two Madrid sides meet with silverware on the line while trying to answer the same question that hung over Saturday night: When can Atletico finally break through?

Because with so many things working in the Atleti’s favor on Saturday, it’s becoming difficult to imagine the number of stars that will have to align for this run to end.