On your marks. Set. Falcao! Chelsea and City start the race for the Columbian
He’s become Europe’s hottest property, with his goals, have firing Atletico Madrid into the the Copa del Rey final and a solid second place in La Liga. Now he’s set to become the ‘must have’ summer accessory and the Premier League’s big spenders look to have fired the starting gun in the race to capture his signature.
As Manchester United’s apparent canter to the league title illustrates, signing a top striker, one that carries a goals guarantee, can make all the difference to the fortunes of a club. The Old Trafford outfit has van Persie pinging them in from all angles, whilst Chelsea has a hapless Torres, City an injured Aguerro, Arsenal an out-of-his-depth Giroud and Spurs an ever-moody Adebayor. Little wonder therefore, that clubs prepared to part with big bucks, particularly City and Chelsea, are looking to emulate Fergie’s title-winning transfer coup, by signing their own version of United’s flying Dutchman. Back in Madrid however, city rivals Real have also cast envious eyes at Atletico’s star asset. With the added conundrum of all three clubs having unresolved managerial issues –of varying degrees – for next season, where the Columbian rocks up at when the new season starts, is open to debate.
Without doubt, City have the biggest of big bucks within the Premier League, and newspaper reports today of a £52 million bid for Falcao suggest a statement of intent for the Eastlands club. It appears likely that Dzeko will be on his way back to Germany in the summer, and with Balotelli already exiled back to Milan, there’s a striker’s berth available in Sky Blue. It’s been a poor season for City who appear to have regressed, and there’s every likelihood that the ownership will be keen to pour ‘oil money’ on the club’s troubled waters. With the increasing likelihood of a Mancini exit as City’s season draws to a disappointing denouement, even an FA Cup triumph will only take the club back to where they were two years ago. So, with or without Mancini, City seem set to take a full part in the Falcao race.
In west London, the managerial situation is even less clear. It’s pretty obvious that, bar an extraordinary renaissance in form and results, Rafa Benitez will leave a vacant hot seat in the summer. It’s also pretty obvious that Roman Abramovich has anever ready wallet for an expensive striker. Even assuming that Chelsea cut their losses on Torres and ship him out in the summer, there’ll still be Demba Ba, and the certainly returning Romelu Lukaku, with all of his bustling pace, power and bursting potential. That said, there’s no sign of the club’s owner displaying a ‘fingers burnt already’ reluctance to dip into the lucre to fund a further front man, and for Chelsea fans the prospect of Lukaku and Falcao fronting up a midfield of Mata, Hazard and Oscar, is a beguiling prospect. Ironically, Torres may be the key element in putting Chelsea in pole position to capture Falcao. A deal involving a Torres return to Atletico could be viewed by the hierarchy at Los Cochoneros as an acceptable way of cashing in on their asset without alienating their fans.
It may however be that both of the English game’s biggest spending clubs may end up in the ‘runners up’ berths in this particular race. Back in Madrid, Los Blancos are also in a managerial hiatus situation. Jose Mourinho appears certain to be leaving in the summer, which will inevitably mean a turnover of playing staff with a number of new players joining as well. Although Falcao clearly is no reluctant traveller, the prospect of staying in a Spanish speaking environment, whilst at the same time enhancing his salary and prospects of securing silverware, will doubtlessly be an enticing prospect for the Columbian.
Other clubs will doubtless consider themselves to be in the running for Falcao’s signature. A further club, with a bank balance full of petro dollars, PSG, will want to be in the race, but having already filled their team with successful strikers, their need may not be as great as City’s or Chelsea’s – or even Real Madrid’s. So with all three clubs likely to be prepared to stump up the cash, what will be the key factor in securing the gold medal of Falcao’signature. The answer may well lie with who is sitting the manager’s chair.
Reports suggest that Falcao has a strong relationship with his current manager, Diego Simeone. The South American has been hugely successful at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, creating for Atletico one of those rare periods in their history when they can claim to be Madrid’s leading club. His stock in the managerial stakes is therefore very much on the up. Already linked with Chelsea, should Mancini be kicked out of City, doubtless there’ll be speculation that he could be heading ‘up north’, and as Mourinho has packs his bags at the Bernabeu, there may well be a cross city call appearing on Simeone’s mobile. So, the result of this particular race may well hinge on who can organise a certain type of coach trip. If one of the three clubs lures Simeone early in the summer, don’t be surprised if Falcao follows.
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