Colombia striker Radamel Falcao says he is ready to trade scoring the winning goal in the UEFA Europa League final if Atletico Madrid are crowned champions on Wednesday.
Atletico face fellow Spanish league side Athletic Bilbao in Bucharest in a bid to repeat their triumph of 2010 when they beat Fulham 2-1 to claim their maiden European trophy. While many of Atletico's players will hope to put their experience of that big occasion to good use, Falcao is the only player from both teams who can boast of being a reigning Europa League champion.
In last year's final he scored the winning goal for FC Porto in their 1-0 win over fellow Portuguese side Braga, taking his tally in the tournament to an impressive 17. And while he cherishes that memory, the Colombian, who with ten goals is the tournament's top scorer this season, would happily see a teammate score the winner if it means Atletico reclaim the trophy.
"When you score a goal in a final you don't forget it. It's very special," Falcao told media Tuesday. "It doesn't matter who scores tomorrow, the important thing is to win, but going in as the tournament's top scorer means I'm a bit more relaxed. I know how historic it would be to win the trophy for the second year in a row with a different club, but all I want is to concentrate on what the team and the coach ask of me."
The final will also see Atletico coach Diego Simeone pit his tactical nous against Marcelo Bielsa, the Argentina coach when Simeone collected the last of his then record 106 caps at the 2002 FIFA World Cup™.
Having experienced the UEFA Cup final as a player with Lazio, Simeone admits he is in unfamiliar territory. "As a coach, it's a bit strange. It's better to experience it as a player," said the Argentine, who has been lauded for taking Atletico to the final only five months after replacing Gregorio Manzano when Atletico were struggling.
"The players have reacted really well to me since I arrived. They were determined to get out of the rut they were in."