One of the things that in-form Colombian strikers Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez have in common, apart from their nationality and their links with Porto, is their ability to hit the back of the net consistently, season after season, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Lethal in and around the box, whether in the air or on the ground, the Cafetero duo have also scored goals in remarkably similar quantities, with Martinez’s first-season haul for Porto providing very obvious echoes of El Tigre’s first year with Os Dragões. FIFA.com takes a closer look at the stats racked up by two players.
Radamel Falcao Garcia left his homeland for Argentina at the age of 14, following the trails blazed by fellow countrymen Juan Pablo Angel and Mario Yepes to River Plate. Despite a long injury lay-off, the youngster showed lots of promise, turning in memorable performances such as the one that inspired Los Millonarios to a 4-2 defeat of Botafogo in the Copa Sudamericana 2007.
“He’s the new Van Basten,” observed Daniel Passarella, his then coach at River and now the club’s president. One of Falcao’s coaches during his stay with the Buenos Aires giants was none other than Diego Simeone, his current boss at Atletico Madrid, who has not been surprised to see the striker build on the encouraging start he made to his career.
“The sky is the limit for him,” said Simeone. “His hunger for goals and desire to keep on developing will only make him better. He’s one of those players who needs to keep pushing himself and even if he keeps scoring goals every Sunday, he’s not going to stop.”
Falcao’s next port of call after the Argentinian capital was Porto, where he arrived in the summer of 2009 as the replacement for Lisandro Lopez, who had moved to Lyon to fill the vacancy created by Karim Benzema’s departure for Real Madrid.
Three years later Martinez would make his arrival at the Portuguese club, following in the footsteps of El Tigre. When asked recently as to why it had taken him so long to cross the Atlantic, La Pantera said: “The time was right for me.”
The fact is, though, that Porto’s coaching staff had been tracking the player for various seasons, right from the time he top-scored in Colombia’s Torneo Finalizacion 2009 with 18 goals for Medellin club Independiente.
Recovering from a string of injuries, he enjoyed a rich and extended vein of form with Jaguares in Mexico, becoming the club’s second-highest all-time goalscorer in the league behind Salvador Cabanas, his finishing helping the Chiapas club reach the Copa Libertadores 2011. Any doubts about the tall striker’s ability to adapt to the Portuguese Liga were quickly dispelled by another barrage of goals.
Martinez’s statistics in his first season at the Estadio do Dragao are more or less identical to those recorded by Falcao in his maiden Porto campaign in 2009/10. While La Pantera struck 26 goals in 30 games to end the season as the leading scorer in Portugal and carry Os Dragões to last-day title win, El Tigre helped himself to 25 in 28 outings, with only Benfica’s Paraguayan hitman Oscar Cardozo above him on the scoring chart. Yet while Martinez’s goals came at a rate of one every 103 minutes, Falcao outpaced him by hitting the back of the net every 93 minutes.
“He’s an intelligent player," said Vitor Pereira, Martinez’s coach at Porto, after watching the Colombian play his first game for the club in a friendly. "He’s quick and very technical and has got a very sharp turn of pace."
On his competitive debut, Martinez secured Porto’s 19th Portuguese Super Cup win with a last-gasp header against Academica de Coimbra, the start of a hugely productive season for him.
“He’s like an old-style centre-forward,” said Porto legend Paulo Futre, a European Cup winner with the club in 1987. “He’s strong in the air and very athletic. He reminds me of George Weah.”
Chachachá, to give Martinez another of his nicknames, never looked back after that opening game of the season, going on to hit four braces and a hat-trick and score some 36 percent of Porto’s goals in the league.
In his first season with the club, El Tigre struck seven doubles and accounted for 37 per cent of the Portuguese side’s goals, a figure that he has surpassed with Atletico Madrid this season, in which he has scored 45 percent of their goals.
“Falcao is an out-and-out goalscorer,” said former Rojiblanco Sergio Aguero earlier this season. A Copa del Rey winner with the Madrid club only last week, Falcao’s record in Europe speaks for itself. The scorer of 70 goals in his two seasons in Spain, he has now amassed a total of 142 goals in his four years in the old continent, an average of 35.5 per season.
Brazil the shared objective
Their rich run of form is also good news for Colombia, who are sitting pretty in third in South American Zone qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ and have a fearsome frontline to call on.
Falcao is the undisputed leader of the Cafetero attack, having spent more time on the pitch than any of his co-strikers in the qualification campaign and outscored them in hitting six goals. “He’s a match-winner, a real leader,” commented Colombia coach Jose Pekerman, who invariably pairs El Tigre with Teo Gutierrez in qualifiers. As a result, Falcao and Martinez have only shared a few minutes on the pitch together in Colombia’s ten qualifiers to date, in the visit to Peru in June last year.
Yet despite having played only 167 minutes in the campaign so far, in which time he has failed to score, La Pantera is far from despondent about his lack of opportunities: “We all feel privileged at being part of the national squad and we all share the same dream: to reach the World Cup in Brazil with Colombia.”