Should Manchester United make Radamel Falcao’s move permanent?

A summer of rebuilding at Old Trafford has seen Manchester United appoint a new manager and bring a host of new players to the club in an effort to reclaim former glories.

One of the most eye-catching additions was the loan capture of Colombian sharpshooter Radamel Falcao from Monaco, with the South American brought to England to make United a more dangerous side in the final third.

The former Atletico Madrid attacker has had a slow start to life in the Premier League, with injuries stopping him from hitting the ground running.

Reports have emerged that United have the option to make Falcao’s switch permanent at the end of the season, but is this wise?

Radamel Falcao

There is no doubt that on his day, fit and on form, Falcao is one of the most deadly strikers in the world game.

He has a proven goalscoring record in a number of European leagues and could be a man to fire United back into title contention.

However, the Colombian has a poor injury record in recent times and there are concerns that he is harbouring the long-term consequences of a serious knee injury.

With the extortionate fee being mentioned to make his move permanent, wouldn’t United be better served spending the money on a world class defender or two?

For every Eric Cantona or Ruud van Nistelrooy that has been part of the Red Devils’ success in the modern era there has been a Steve Bruce or Rio Ferdinand that has played just as an important role.

United have a wealth of attacking talent at Louis van Gaal’s disposal at the moment but are lacking experienced and proven defenders.

Given that Robin van Persie, Juan Mata, Angel di Maria, Adnan Januzaj, youngster James Wilson and Wayne Rooney are in Van Gaal’s squad, with Javier Hernandez on loan, the Colombian’s signing is not something that is really needed.

However, with United shipping goals in the Premier League and down to their bare bones at centre-half, the powers that be at Old Trafford would be better served spending big money on the solidification of the team’s rearguard.

Hulk is not the answer to Chelsea’s attacking problems

When Andre Villas-Boas got the Chelsea job in 2011 one of the first names linked to follow him from his successful Porto side was Hulk. It didn’t come to pass. Last summer, Chelsea were linked to Hulk once again. It didn’t come to pass. This summer, they are being linked to Hulk yet again. And their fans should be hoping that this story follows the familiar pattern. Only this time, he has said ‘If I said there wasn’t anything in it, I would be lying. But that is not for now.’ Are Chelsea really about to sign a wide forward to play centre forward?

If Chelsea do want to sign a striker, and all signs say they do, the quality of names they are being linked with is bafflingly low or with players who don’t play the position. They’ve been linked most strongly to Man City cast-off Edin Dzeko, Fiorentina attacking midfielder Steven Jovetic and Hulk. There is Gonzalo Higuain on the market and even closer to home, the returning Romelu Lukaku. On top of this, they are expected to sign yet another attacking midfielder/forward type in André Schürrle. It all seems like a bit of a messy process and would indicate an unusually scruffy transfer policy for Chelsea compared to recent years. But one thing is for sure, amongst this group, Hulk is definitely not the answer.


There are two key reasons that he is so wrong for Chelsea. Firstly, he’s not a central striker. His positional versatility is limited to the right hand side of a three man forward line. Not only does he not fit Chelsea’s need, they don’t even play the system that he can almost exclusively play in. The reason he is so position limited is that he is a one trick pony. His sole attacking device is to get the ball on the right, cut inside and try to smash the ball with left foot. Does that sound like a basic Arjen Robben perhaps? Well, imagine Chelsea eyeing up Robben to play as the lone striker. Would that not be considered ridiculous?

Secondly, the transfer fee is insane. Last summer Zenit St. Petersburg paid £50m for Hulk and the football world was stunned, staggered and amused in equal measure. They had to pay a premium because they were buying from Porto and because they were buying very late in the transfer window. Ask Monaco about buying from Porto and ask Liverpool about buying late in the transfer window. See; Carroll, Andy.

The price was absurdly inflated. Now, Chelsea are being talked about as offering £35m for Hulk. £35m?! It’s unfathomable. Zenit would be swallowing a £15m loss in one year, and more critically, he’s just not worth that much money. Before Villas-Boas’ single season at Porto transformed his career, his highest league return was eight goals. In Portugal. The season after AVB and Falcao left Porto he scored 16 domestic goals and has got seven in Russia. With respect, these aren’t the best leagues in Europe we’re talking about. Luis Suarez cost Liverpool £24m after scoring 35 goals in Holland. Even at his peak Hulk’s highest was 23. Is this a career record that screams out £35m?

In other words, his last calendar year compares unfavourably with Fernando Torres. Perhaps that is the starkest way of phrasing it. If Chelsea lay out this much for a player of no positional need, no proven record of scoring in major competitions, the year Porto won the Europa League it was Falcao getting the goals, Hulk only got two in that run, and for this crazy fee it will be at odds with their recent policy. He’s a one-season wonder, who only has one trick in his arsenal. If they sign him they are blocking the path of Romelu Lukaku to the first team and still not addressing their search for regular striker in the process. But, he can smash a free-kick sometimes.

Fernando Torres must quit Chelsea and return home – to Atletico Madrid

Much has been written about Chelsea’s Fernando Torres, with the Spain international having to live with a world of abuse from the football community for the last two years. My overwhelming emotion when I look at the Spaniard these days is one of pity. He has lost his pace, confidence and killer instinct, but still has the attributes to play at the highest level. It is now time for both Chelsea and Torres to call for an end to an agonising period at Stamford Bridge for the attacker, and let him return to his homeland.

Let’s not forget who we are talking about; before his misadventures at Chelsea, Fernando Torres was one of the most respected and deadly strikers in world football. With the Spanish national side Torres has won two European Championships and a World Cup, and is his nation’s all-time third top goalscorer currently.

Fernando Torres

With Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, the forward was at times unplayable, and he was awarded third place in the 2008 Ballon d’Or behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. But, there is no denying that the wheels have come off for Torres since his move to London.

He is not the first big-name forward to underachieve at Chelsea – look at Andriy Shevchenko; widely regarded as one of the most lethal hitmen to grace European football in the modern era, the Ukrainian had a similar experience at Stamford Bridge.

Whether it was the astronomical price tag hanging over his head, the constant media scrutiny or just bad luck, Torres must now draw a line under his time at Chelsea and look to get back to his best elsewhere.

And where better than where it all started, at Atletico Madrid. The Vicente Calderon outfit have come on leaps and bounds since Torres donned their red and white strip; they used to be a mid-table side but in the modern day they are looking almost certain to achieve Champions League qualification for next season.

Fernando Torres at Atletico Madrid

One player that has been critical in this has been Colombian marksman Radamel Falcao; but the South American looks likely to leave the Spanish capital for Manchester City, PSG or even Chelsea this summer.  Torres is the ideal replacement.

Coming into a city and club that he knows, with a manager in Diego Simeone who he has played alongside, means there can be the familiarity that breeds comfort. It was at Atletico that he made a name for himself; it is there that he can re-find the player that was once awarded world acclaim.

In terms of Torres’ time in England, we should remember him in his Liverpool days; devastating pace, scoring from impossible angles and torturing defenders, not his nightmare at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea and Hulk: Not an ideal solution

It has been reported in the press today that Chelsea may well make a move for Hulk this summer to further their options in attack. Roman Abramovich was hot on the heels of the Brazil international last summer, but the South American chose a move to Zenit St Petersburg instead. However, with Hulk unsettled in Russia, should Chelsea reignite their attempts to sign him?

On first glance it appears that Hulk may well  be what the Blues need – physical, strong, fast with an excellent goal scoring record. However while placing your bet on your favorite team in Soccer other options should be considered; the Stamford Bridge club will have more suitable players available to them for the astronomical transfer fee that it will take to bring Hulk to west London.


Despite his physical attributes, Hulk fancies himself as a ball player and in traditional Brazilian style wants to drop deep to get involved in possession. There is nothing wrong with this, however that type of player is not what is needed at Chelsea. With the likes of Oscar, Eden Hazard and the mercurial Juan Mata as playmakers, another player dropping into the mix to play passes is unnecessary.

With the creative players at the club’s disposal, an out-an-out finisher and goalscorer is needed to convert chances rather than another technical ball player. In that respect Hulk’s former Porto teammate Radamel Falcao is a much closer fit, as is someone like Edinson Cavani or Robert Lewandowski.

One must also quest Hulk’s motivations, after Chelsea lost out to Zenit in the battle for his signature last summer. The South American has followed the money to play in Russia, and after realising that he does not want to be there now is ready to jump ship; this despite the fact that he only moved to Zenit in September.

Chelsea need team players and characters that are ready to battle to win close games. As talented as Hulk is, it appears that he is not the right player for the Blues, and has questionable motives. Given the huge potential transfer fee also, Mr. Abramovich would be best spend his money elsewhere.

Tottenham thriving as AVB gets the best from Gareth Bale

Andre Villas-Boas has taken a lot of criticism whilst he has been in England, mostly as a result of his ill-fated spell as John Terry’s assistant at Chelsea. However, his work at Tottenham is starting to regain him the respect that he garnered whilst sweeping all before him during his one season at Porto.

One of the views being put about is that he is quite lucky to have Gareth Bale in the form of his life, but how about the idea that it is because of AVB’s teaching that Bale is achieving the levels that he is? Bale’s explosion in goalscoring form has coincided with AVB moving him in to a central role. In reality he has a roaming license, popping up all over the pitch. He is top of every dribbling statistic in the major five European leagues and he now has the freedom to do that from all over the field. The Wales international has become particularly dangerous from deep central areas, powering straight at defences; see his goals away at Norwich, West Brom and the first at West Ham. His finishing has always been quite good, but out on the wing he had less chance to demonstrate it.

Gareth Bale hugs manager Andre Villas-Boas

AVB isn’t actually the first to deploy Bale in the middle. Harry Redknapp played him in behind the striker a couple of times last season, including a two-goal plunder away at Norwich, but he didn’t stick to it. This was partly because he liked Rafael Van der Vaart in there, but mainly because he liked the two wide pacey wingers to put crosses in to the box.

AVB comes from a different tactical school to Redknapp. He deploys his best player in his best position and figures the rest out from there. Even if it means playing him in a different part of the pitch to where he might be expected to play. He did the same at Porto with Radamel Falcao. He told him to stay central and let the chances come his way, particularly after a barren start to the season.

Radamel Falcao

In his first season in Portugal Falcao had scored 25 goals in the league but just four in Europe. During Villas-Boas’ only season at the club he scored 16 more domestic goals, in only 22 games, but what made his name were the 17 he scored on Porto’s run to victory in the Europa League. When Villas-Boas arrived he made noises that he wouldn’t make any special adjustments to fit around Falcao, but there were subtle changes. He tweaked the Porto system meaning Falcao won the prized berth in the middle of the front three, and this showed the Colombian that he was Villas-Boas’ main man.

The same thing is happening with Bale. AVB is nothing if not a relentless worker and something of a football junkie. He meticulously plans his training sessions and his tactical game plans but at the beginning of the season he was struggling to get the best from Bale. It has been a slow transition but he has allowed the Welshman more and more license to get himself in to areas that the opposition don’t want to him to be. Where do they least want Bale? Running straight at them through the middle of the pitch. Where do teams least want to see Falcao? Lingering around in the box waiting to pounce on anything that comes his way.

These meticulously planned training sessions are a big factor in helping these players attain their maximum potential. Bale is the type of player who would spend all day on the training ground if he could, and having an innovative and thinking coach like AVB who is able to provide him with different challenges and stimulus every day is something that he buys in to. His work ethic has been compared to Cristiano Ronaldo and the fact that he has such a good coach and teacher is what is taking him on to another level.

After his spectacular season at Porto, Falcao headed to Atletico Madrid for £35 million, full of confidence and with the reputation as one of Europe’s hottest strikers. He has only continued on from there and is now considered amongst the top three pure strikers in the world. Tottenham fans will be hoping that the AVB affect won’t end with Bale, but it is clear that as a coach and teacher Villas-Boas knows how to take very good players and make them some of the best in the world.

Chelsea’s striker dilemma: Who should replace Didier Drogba?

Chelsea’s Champions League success in 2011-12 has given the club a real boost, with Roman Abramovich looking to bolster his squad to challenge on all fronts next term. Despite the enterprise and talent of new midfielders Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Marko Marin, with Didier Drogba’s departure a new top-class striker replacement is needed. But who?


Initially the frontrunner to be the Ivorian’s successor, a big-money move from Porto looked all-but sewn up a couple of weeks ago. However negotiations appear to have broken down, and the Portuguese champions’ astronomical fee demands seem to have put a dampener on Chelsea’s early enthusiasm. Although the Brazilian is burly and strong, he tends to drop deep or wide to pick up the ball, and as such may not be the targetman/centre forward the Blues need.

Radamel Falcao

The Colombian marksman has shown his calibre in Europe for both Porto and now Atletico Madrid, with back-to-back Europa League successes a testament to his goalscoring ability. With the Vicente Calderon side missing out on Champions League football for next term, one feels a concerted Chelsea effort could bring the South American to Stamford Bridge.

Edinson Cavani

One of the most predatory finishers in world football, Cavani has been the spearhead for a mightily-impressive San Paolo attack over the last two years, terrorising defences across Italy and into Europe. The Serie A side will not want to sell, but with Juventus also circling and strike partner Ezequiel Lavezzi leaving this summer already, Cavani is by no means unattainable.

Stevan Jovetic

Mobile, skilful and with an eye for goal, the Montenegro international has improved markedly over the last two years in a mediocre Fiorentina side. A move to a bigger club looks almost certain, but whether or not Jovetic is ready to make the switch from a big fish in a small pond to Didier Drogba’s replacement is unclear.

Andre Schurrle

Part of a breed of exciting young German attackers, Schurrle is Bayer Leverkusen’s prize asset and involvement in Joachim Low’s Germany squad at Euro 2012 is no mean feat. The Blues are said to have had a bid already rejected for Schurrle, but with additional pressure the BayArena side could be convinced to sell. However, as gifted as he is, Schurrle’s ability to replace Drogba through the middle is questionable, as his style is different to his potential predecessor.

With Abramovich’s multi-millions ready to be spent, any of these five could be acquired if Chelsea really wanted. However, with a new-look talented team in need of an out-an-out centre forward to score chances, Cavani or Falcao look the most relevant targets.

Published – Soccerlens

Europa League final: La Liga’s second tier Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid fight for glory

Whilst much of the talk around Europe over the last couple of weeks has been about Barcelona and Real Madrid’s inability to reach the Champions League final, two of the teams in their shadow have made sure that there will be one all-Spanish final this season. Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao will meet in the Europa league final on the May 9th in Bucharest.

Atletico’s season has been turned around by the appointment of Diego Simeone in December, after a run of poor form in the league that left them in danger of not qualifying for European football at all next season. As things stand now though they are in fifth place and still have a chance of getting into fourth and with it Champions League football next season.

Los Colcheneros have not finished outside the top 10 since 2005 and have twice finished inside the top four. Their consistency is even more remarkable considering the almost constant sales of their best players such as Fernando Torres, Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan. Also in this time they have proved their strength on the European stage by winning the Europa League in 2010 and then beating Champions league holders Inter Milan in the Super Cup later that year.

The main man behind Atletico’s success this season though is their new scoring sensation Radamel Falcao. Signed for a club record €40 million in the summer of 2011 after an incredible record of 73 goals in 83 games for Porto, he has lived up to expectations. His record of 33 goals in 46 games this season has proved his ability and the Colombia international is still improving. If Atletico have long-term ambitions to break into the Primera Division top four again and stay there, they must keep hold of players like Falcao.

Atletico’s run to the final has been fairly comfortable and scare free. They comfortably finished top of a group containing Udinese, Celtic and Rennes, before cruising past Lazio, Besiktas, Hannover 96 and maybe a little surprisingly, Valencia, winning home and away in every round.

There is no doubt they will face a stern test in the final though in the form of Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao. Former Argentina and Chile coach Bielsa joined at the start of this season and has turned the San Mames outfit into one of the most exciting and attacking teams in Europe. This style of football, which has already been compared to Barcelona’s, has seen Bielsa linked with the Chelsea and Camp Nou jobs in some quarters. Since finishing 17th in 2006-2007, the Basque team have made steady improvements year after year and currently sit tenth in the table; the appointment of Bielsa may be the final piece of the jigsaw.

Bilbao’s improvement this season was evident in the Spain squad for the friendly against Venezuela. Javi Martinez, Andoni Iraola, Fernando Llorente and Iker Munian were all included with only Barcelona having more players from a single club in the squad. Much like Atletico though, Bilbao must hold on to these players if they have long term ambitions of making the step up to Champions League football, but with a number of English clubs already being linked with 19-year-old Munian, Llorente and Martinez, this may be difficult.

Bilbao’s route to the final has been nothing short of exceptional. After coming top of a relatively easy group with the exception of big spending Paris Saint-Germain, they have upset some big European names in the knock out stages. After winning through on away goals against Lokomotiv Moscow they caused the upset of the competition by knocking out Manchester United. Incredible attacking performances home and away gave them victories in both games and in truth the 5-3 aggregate scoreline could have been much worse for the English champions. From then another high-scoring victory over Schalke followed although they did need a late Llorente goal to get past Sporting Lisbon in the semi-final.

There is no doubt that this could be one of the biggest seasons in Bilbao’s history with the chance of a cup double as they meet Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final later this month. Victory in both of these finals will certainly put Athletic Bilbao’s name on every European football fan’s lips.

Both teams attacking styles will surely mean a great spectacle and an open game in Romania’s capital city on Wednesday and it may come down to a battle between two of La Liga’s best strikers in Falcao and Llorente to determine who takes the Spanish bragging rights in Europe this year.

By Chris Newman

Tottenham, Inter and Juventus potential destinations for Porto’s rising stars

FC Porto have been one of European football’s revelations this season, as Andre Villas Boas’ side have swept all-comers aside domestically and in Europe. The side from the Estadio do Dragao finished third last season in the league, but have had a barnstorming and unbeaten run this campaign, winning the title back at a canter, sealing their victorious fate with a 2-1 away win at nearest rivals Benfica. At the time of writing Villas Boas’ men have won 25 of their 27 games, with a startling goal difference of +51, and the newly crowned Portuguese champions are looking for European success also, with a semi-final tie against Villarreal in the Europa League coming up next week.
The Dragoes exemplary run of form has not gone unnoticed, and Europe’s big clubs are starting to circle; three players have been most publicly touted as being pursued by Europe’s bigger clubs, with Italy or England the most likely destination.
Givanildo Vieria de Souza, aka Hulk, is a strong, powerful and abrasive frontman with an eye for goal, and is the Portuguese Primeira Liga top goalscorer with 22 goals and counting. Soon to be Italian champions Milan are reportedly keeping tabs on the Selecao goalgetter, as Massimiliano Allegri looks to add players to his side that can take the goalscoring burden from Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s shoulders. However, the strikers physical attributes would suggest that he has what it takes to be a success in English football, and Tottenham are apparently ready to spend big to capture the proven goalscorer. Countryman and ex-Porto player Anderson has publicly stated that the 24 year old striker would be an excellent addition at Manchester United also, but the striker is more likely to end up at White Hart Lane.
Hulk’s partner in crime is Radamel Falcao, who has scored 12 goals in 12 Europa League games this season. The 25 year old ex-River Plate forward has proved an excellent foil for Hulk, with an explosive burst of pace and finishing ability with both feet; the pair have scored a frightening 55 goals between them this season. Tottenham again have been linked with Falcao, with even a double move for the partnership being reported, but a more likely destination for the Colombian is Inter. The Nerazzurri are looking for a replacement for ageing Diego Milito, and one of the reason’s behind the Milanese club’s poor season is their dependence on Samuel Eto’o for goals. Falcao would complement the existing personnel at the San Siro, but will not come cheap with a fee of around €20 million being asked by his current employers.
The Porto rearguard is headed up by towering centre back Rolando, who has been the main reason his side have conceded a measly 18 goals domestically this season. The Cape Verde born Portugal international has made 10 appearances for the national side and has grown under Villas Boas’ tutelage. Both Manchester United and Liverpool have been linked with a summer move for the gifted defender, but Rolando may follow Falcao to Italy, with Juventus being the side most adamant in capturing his signature. The Old Lady of Italian football has struggled to replace Fabio Cannavaro and have been guilty of leaking soft goals this season; Rolando is the type of player to get the Turin club back amongst Europe’s top clubs.
Expect an all conquering Porto side to go on and finish the season unbeaten, with European glory a real possibility also. However as with Jose Mourinho’s class of 2004, the vultures will pick off the prize assets from Villas Boas’ team, with the coach himself most likely to follow his talented players out the door.

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