Saint Petersburg, Monday
Robbed of his World Cup dream by injury four years ago, Colombia captain Radamel Falcao has at last realised his childhood dream and has a point to prove against England.
Falcao’s nine goals in qualifying carried the team to a first World Cup for 16 years in Brazil before an ungainly challenge by a schoolteacher in the French Cup in January 2014 inflicted cruciate ligament damage and blew his career off course.
“El Tigre” (The Tiger) was one of the world’s most feared strikers. His $70 million move to Monaco from Atletico Madrid six months earlier was reportedly intended to be a stopgap for a season before he headed to Real Madrid, given the difficulties of directly crossing the divide in the Spanish capital.
Instead, Colombia’s all-time top scorer had to sit and watch alone in a Monaco apartment, completing his rehabilitation as his country went further than ever before at a World Cup.
James Rodriguez was crowned Colombia’s new golden boy as he won the Golden Boot with six goals and was only stopped by some robust Brazilian tactics in the quarter-finals.
In trying to rush back in time to make the World Cup in 2014, Falcao only put more strain on his body and ultimately prolonged his recovery time.
Despite doubts over his fitness, his reputation remained intact. Manchester United and then Chelsea were tempted to take a punt on paying his wages for loan spells.
In 41 games in England over two campaigns, though, the once-prolific Falcao scored just five goals.
“There are times when one breaks down,” he told Colombian newspaper El Tiempo of his time in England. “There are difficult situations that one cannot contain and like any human being, I cried.”
Only once back in Monaco and given a regular run in the team to find his fitness and form did the old Falcao return.