I never thought I’d see a more complete number nine than Ronaldo. Not before we all get sucked into the Galaxy’s nasty world-ending Black Hole tomorrow, anyway.
Pre-obesity and in his pomp, the Brazilian was a totally irresistible force. A two-footed goal-hungry wizard with the strength of Hercules, he was just as feared by his future opponents as those poor, terrified heavyweight contenders who were cruelly thrown into the ring with a really rather frightening Mike Tyson in the late '80s.
Ronaldo was incontrovertibly the best centre forward I’ve ever seen.
Until Radamel Falcao came along, that is.
Having so far plied his trade for River Plate, FC Porto and Atletico Madrid, the 26-year-old Colombian is still patiently waiting for his chance to perform on football’s main stage.
A hat-trick against Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup Final, devastatingly impressive match-winning displays in the last two Europa League finals, a strike-rate that would make 99.9 per cent of his fellow strikers blush, and a recent five-goal demolition of Deportivo La Coruna, have ensured he won’t need to loiter in the wings for too much longer.
With a buy-out clause of €60million most players in the Spanish capital would sensibly hold off from casting a curious eye on house prices in London, Manchester or Paris. That doesn’t apply to him. Designed to deter, he’s developing so fast it’s a price tag which has barely registered to his suitors. The winning bidder will be prepared to cough up more if they have to.
So, what makes Falcao so special? Let’s break it down…
Like every proper number nine should be, he’s hard. Just shy of six feet tall, Falcao isn’t physically intimidating but his power and unwillingness to be knocked around provides an illusion that he’s bigger.
He also has a trait that’s missing in many modern day strikers, and that’s a football brain. Defenders are rarely afforded a breather, as he constantly looks to gain that yard or two of precious space with rapid, intelligent movement.
The Colombian is also surprisingly nimble on his feet. Possessing a velvety smooth touch, he can twist and turn his markers into knots if he so chooses. Chelsea know all about this.
And then there are the goals. Tap-ins, headers, right foot, left foot, chips, dinks, drives, curlers, dead balls – and plenty of trademark acrobatic volleys too. Nicknamed ‘El Tigre’ in his homeland because he can pounce at any time to score a goal, Falcao can score with any and every variation of goal imaginable.
So, where will he end up?
Only four clubs can afford him; Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris St-Germain, and Real Madrid.
He wants to play in a big league, so that pretty much rules Carlo Ancelotti and his Parisians out of the equation; while Zlatan Ibrahimovic wouldn’t take too kindly to playing second fiddle to someone superior.
Real Madrid should be in pole position. He wouldn’t have to uproot his family, and any ex-Porto player would jump at the chance to work with Jose Mourinho. The problem appears to be the Special One’s likely exit, and possible repercussions from Atletico fans upset at his defection across the city.
Man City have too many strikers/players as it is. Roberto Mancini is reticent to sell any of his big four, and with FFP looming they can ill afford to bring in somebody else on over £200,000 a week, without losing someone they don’t want to.
All of which leaves Chelsea, the most desperate of Falcao’s admirers. They can use Fernando Torres as bait (which to most clubs except Atletico would be an immediate no-no), they can pay him the wages, offer him a home in London, and with some degree of certainty they can label him their main man.
I think he’s going to Chelsea.
With a supply line that includes Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, and my personal favourite Oscar, the Colombian – who at 26 is approaching his peak - will plunder a ridiculous amount of goals in the Premier League. It’s a land of very little quality defending. He has to.
Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry transformed Arsenal, Eric Cantona was uber-influential at Old Trafford, while up until now the names Zola and Drogba have been synonymous with Chelsea revolutions. This will change once Falcao arrives at Stamford Bridge.
The South American is a game-changer, the greatest centre forward in the world. And he is going to get better.
This is a player who - with the help of other more defensive newcomers – is genuinely capable of helping to remodel Chelsea into that global-dominating club which Roman Abramovich still dares to dream of.
For those of us who don't support the Blues, suddenly the impending Armageddon doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all, does it?
Click here to read more from former Arsenal midfielder Adrian Clarke.