Prolific Falcao snubs Euro elite for Monaco
The confirmation of Radamel Falcao's move from Atletico Madrid to Monaco on Friday, for a fee presumed to be anything up to 60 million euros ($77 million), continued the somewhat strange career trajectory of one of the world's deadliest strikers.
At 27, the Colombian has still only participated in the Champions League for one season of his career, despite scoring 142 goals during his four seasons in Europe and costing over 100 million euros in transfer fees.
Falcao has hardly been a late developer either, amazingly making his debut in the Colombian second division with Lanceros when he was just 13 years of age before being snapped up by Argentine giants River Plate.
However, his progression in Buenos Aires was stalled by a serious knee injury in 2006 and he didn't return to top form until 2008 when, under the guidance of Diego Simeone - who would go on to manage Falcao once more at Atletico - Los Millionarios won the Argentine Closing championship.
However, after a difficult period as River struggled in 2009, Falcao wasn't at the top of the shopping list for European football's biggest clubs apart from Portuguese side Porto, who used their renowned knowledge of the South American market to sign him for just over three million euros.
Falcao hit the ground running in northern Portugal, scoring in his first four league games and indeed against Atletico in the Champions League as he netted four times in just eight European appearances.
El Tigre ended his first season in Europe with a career-high 34 goals, but that was just a sign of things to come the following year at Porto.
The Colombian spearheaded the Dragons' attack as they reclaimed the Portuguese title from Benfica and went on to lift the Europa League too, with a 1-0 win over domestic rivals Sporting Braga in the final in Dublin.
It was Falcao's feats in Europe that particularly caught the eye as he surpassed Jurgen Klinsmann's record for goals in a single European campaign by registering 17 times in Porto's triumphant run.
A surprise 40 million-euro move to Atletico followed in the summer of 2011, although the step up in competition as he crossed the border from Portugal into Spain didn't seem to bother him as he scored five times in his first two league starts.
And, despite going on to score 24 league goals as Atletico just missed out on a Champions League place, it was again his exploits in the Europa League which impressed.
For the second consecutive season he finished as the tournament's top scorer and with a winner's medal as his two goals in the final against Athletic Bilbao took his tally for the season in Europe to 12.
His exploits in the Spanish capital understandably alerted Europe's top clubs but no-one was willing to stump up the necessary cash to force his exit from the Vicente Calderon last year and Los Colchoneros were doubly delighted to have kept hold of him when he produced arguably his most deadly performance in an Atleti shirt with a first-half hat-trick that blew away Chelsea in the European Super Cup in August.
The Spaniards won that game 4-1 in Monaco.
Falcao continued to fire as Atletico's rapid start to the campaign ensured they will definitely be playing Champions League football next season, scoring 28 league goals in the process.
And he also contributed with a lovely assist for Diego Costa to help his team beat Real Madrid 2-1 in the Copa del Rey final in Real's own Santiago Bernabeu stadium earlier this month.
However, not even that emotional success, which reduced the Colombian to tears, nor the lure of another go at the Champions League, could persuade Falcao to stay.
Instead he has chosen to swap the red and white of Madrid for the red and white of Monaco as the principality club's Russian billionaire owner Dmitry Rybolovlev continues his audacious spending spree that intends to launch the Ligue 2 champions back amongst European football's elite.
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