On Friday, Radamel Falcao turned in a performance beyond Atleti fans’ and, he admitted to reporters afterwards, his own wildest imaginations in scoring a first-half hat-trick against Champions League title-holders Chelsea, helping Atlético to their second Super Cup trophy and fourth European honour in little over two years.
Jokes were aplenty among the fans and even the players and coaching staff about the recent closing of the transfer market, with Diego Simeone, according to the Spanish press, even joining in on the ribbing of ‘El Tigre’ in the locker room after the game—saying he was glad the final wasn’t played a day before out of fear of having to say goodbye to his Colombian hitman.
If Falcao’s father is to be believed, and there’s no reason not to trust the senior Radamel García, ahead of the Chelsea clash in Monaco the striker himself wasn’t even sure if he’d remain a Colchonero beyond the weekend.
“I don’t know if I’m going to play. I don’t know if they will sell me. What if you come [to Monaco] for nothing?”
These are the words Falcao told his father, his dad claimed when explaining to Colombian paper MÍO why he did not attend the Stade Louis II to catch his son in action.
“I knew about offers from a Russian club that was very interested [in signing Falcao],” Mr. García said.
“Plus, there was interest from big clubs in England.”
Gol Caracol, a generally reliable Colombia-based source, reported that Chelsea and Atlético had entered into a pre-agreement that would give the Blues first preference to sign Falcao in January should los Rojiblancos decide to part ways with their talismanic forward.
But Dani Hidalgo of Spanish paper AS reported that Atleti officials strongly denied the rumours when contacted about the Gol Caracol claims.
Hidalgo added that ESPN confirmed the falsity of those assertions by speaking directly to Chelsea personnel.
Sources at the London-based outfit said they had no interest in acquiring Falcao. Instead, they purportedly stated, they were targeting Napoli’s Edinson Cavani, but the Uruguayan attacker eventually proved too costly for them.
Atlético general director Miguel Ángel Gil Marín, speaking to Radio COPE (Spain) on Saturday, assured that multiple clubs had offered to pay Falcao’s release clause over the summer, but neither the club nor the player were interested in negotiating a move.
“Falcao would be nothing without the rest of his team-mates,” Gil Marín said.
“Atleti can afford the luxury of having players like him, but they have to qualify for the Champions League, because if they don’t, there are very big risks.”
He continued: “We’ve received offers for his release clause during the summer, and he has known about them. We have problems keeping them here, but we are working hard to achieve that. Radamel is committed to the club. He thought he was going to leave before the pre-season and he’s very happy at Atleti. For sure, he’s not going to want to leave.”
Atlético’s majority shareholder also claimed bids were made for Filipe, Godín, Miranda, Arda and Adrián, “but there were players that we didn’t want to let go of.”
According to Dani Hidalgo, Falcao is pleased at the Vicente Calderón and is only interested in putting together another solid season with Atleti and with the Colombian national team but, much like Sergio ‘Kun’ Agüero before him, he is continously fighting off pressure from members of his family who would like for him to join a bigger European side, a sentiment widely shared by his compatriots.
Regardless of who is asked about the issue, one thing is clear: if El Tigre is to continue to don the red and white colours for years to come, it will be because we have secured a Champions League berth and the crucial funds that qualification into the elite European competition entail.
Otherwise, these could very well be the 26-year-old’s last months at the club.