Falcao's rekindled form ahead of Colombia's World Cup campaign
Last Updated: 02/07/18 2:43pm
Falcao is a Colombia legend - but the 32-year-old has never before graced a World Cup finals. We chart his rise, fall and recent return to form at Monaco.
Radamel Falcao Garcia Zarate was born in the port City of Santa Marta in 1986, during the height of the Colombian conflict - one year after rebel groups sieged the Palace of Justice, 1,000km south in Bogota.
Falcao's father, Radamel Garcia, who had played as a centre-back for Santa Fe, moved the family to Venezuela in 1990 to prolong his playing career, before returning the family to their homeland five years later.
At just nine years old, having played baseball in Venezuela, Falcao caught the eye of football coaches at Colombia's top clubs.
However, his family rejected offers from a raft of top Bogota sides and he joined lesser-known Lanceros de Boyaca in Tunja - a three-hour drive south from the capital.
At just 13, Falcao signed a professional contract at the Primera B club, now known as Patriotas Boyaca, and became the youngest player to make an appearance in Colombian football at that level.
After a brief spell with Millonarios in Bogota, Falcao moved to Argentina to join River Plate for £300,000 in 2000, where he earned the nickname 'El tigre' [The tiger] - coined by team-mate Gonzalo Luduena for his attacking potency.
He made his senior debut for the club four years later, after undertaking a journalism degree in Buenos Aires, and became a first-team regular in 2005.
An anterior cruciate ligament injury kept him sidelined for a year, but he returned in a similar vein of form - scoring seven goals in as many appearances - making his Colombia debut in 2007.
In 2009, the then-23-year-old joined Porto for £3m, after Aston Villa had failed to prise him to the Midlands, and he rapidly became recognised internationally with 72 goals in 87 games over three seasons.
That form sealed a blockbuster £35m move to Atletico Madrid in 2011, where he maintained that incredible goal ratio with 70 goals in 91 appearances.
Real Madrid were reportedly circling for his signature in mid-2013, but he joined newly-promoted Ligue 1 side Monaco for £50m - a move that was widely considered to be against the player's wishes.
His career in France failed to ignite as it had in Colombia, Argentina, Portugal and Spain, scoring only nine league goals before suffering another ACL injury in January 2014.
The injury put his World Cup dream in jeopardy, but he remained optimistic of making the finals, amid worldwide support under the social media movement 'Fuerza Tigre' [Stay strong Tiger] - but he failed to make the final squad.
Having recovered for the start of 2014/15, Falcao came off the bench in Monaco's first two league games, scoring during a 2-1 defeat against Lorient - before starting and scoring in 1-0 win at Nantes.
Rumours over the Colombian's future began to circle again, and he was omitted from the squad one week later - watching the game from the stands beside club owner Vadim Vasilyev.
Two days later, Manchester United announced they had signed Falcao on loan - with an option to make the move permanent at the end of the season, which the Colombian confirmed was his intention.
However, Falcao struggled to settle once again, playing a bit-part role in United's campaign, with the Colombian controversially demoted to the U21 squad in March, 2015 under Louis van Gaal.
United declined to exercise their option to sign him permanently at the end of 2014/15, after scoring just four goals from 29 appearances.
With his illustrious career on the wane, Jose Mourinho elected to sign the Colombian on loan at reigning Premier League champions Chelsea, with an option to make the move permanent.
Falcao made only one start in nine league appearances during a torrid run of results, which culminated with Mourinho leaving the club in December.
But Falcao had already suffered another injury - a groin strain that kept him sidelined until February 2016. Upon his return, he would make one more league appearance for the club under interim boss Guus Hiddink.
That 14-minute substitute appearance against Swansea in April 2016 proved to be his Premier League swansong to date, being dropped from the matchday squad for the final four games of the season.
After three stalled seasons - two on loan in England's top flight - he returned to Monaco, being handed the captain armband by coach Leonardo Jardim.
Falcao scored on his first appearance for the club in two years - during a Champions League qualifier against Fenerbache - and proceeded to help the side reach the final four of the competition.
In addition, the club were crowned Ligue 1 champions for the first time since Millennium - with Falcao finishing the season as top scorer with 30 goals in 43 appearances across all competitions.
This season, he maintained his form in front of goal with 24 goals in 36 appearances in all competitions and was nominated for the 2017 Ballon d'Or.
Injury free and back to his best, the 32-year-old will captain Colombia in Russia this summer, in what will be his first World Cup finals, and potentially his last - some 11 years after his international debut.
Despite never gracing the ultimate international stage, he became the country's all-time top scorer in June 2017 - netting his 26th goal in a 2-2 draw with Spain.
Since then, he has extended that tally to 29, scoring against Brazil and Paraguay en route to qualification and, most recently, netting the match-winner in a friendly with France.
Falcao will lead his side out against Japan on June 19, and will also face Poland and Senegal in an attempt to secure qualification to the knock-out rounds.
[The World Cup] is a dream for me. I am very motivated to help Colombia qualify for the World Cup and then I want to play it. I'm getting ready for that.
Falcao, September 2017
The Group H opener will mark 11 years and 16 days since Falcao scored his first goal for Colombia - a winner against Montengro in the Kirin Cup.
Will El Tigre assert his rekindled form on the ultimate stage and leave a legacy that eclipses injury-marred seasons of recent years?
Comment below to get involved in the debate, but please adhere to our House Rules. If you wish to report any comment, simply click on the down arrow next to the offending comment and click 'Report'.