There is little that has not already been said about Colombian striker Radamel Falcao. In his maiden season with Spain’s Atletico Madrid, the 26-year-old top-scored for his side in the league with 26 goals and was the leading marksman for the second season running in the UEFA Europa League, in which Falcao pocketed another winner’s medal to go the one he collected with Porto last year.
Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com in the Colombian city of Cali, where Los Colchoneros are currently on tour, the former River Plate youth player looked back on another productive season, discussed speculation about his future and looked forward to the challenge of spearheading his country’s qualification bid for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
FIFA.com: Did you imagine ending your first season with Atletico Madrid on such a high note. After all, some people said you were making a mistake when you joined the club.
Radamel Falcao: I did to begin with. I was very excited about the season turning out this way, and though things didn’t go how we wanted them to initially, I always felt we could reach the Europa League final and go on and win it. In the end it all went perfectly for the team and for me too.
Following the win over Athletic Bilbao in Bucharest Michel Platini had something to say to you during the awards ceremony, didn’t he?
Yes, he made a joke about seeing me again there this year and asked what I was doing up there again, things like that. To tell you the truth, though, I was amazed by it all, even though it was the second time I’ve won the title. I loved watching the celebrations, to see how happy everyone was in Madrid, and to see and hear their reactions and their affection for us. It made a big impact on me, and I’ve got nothing but gratitude for them.
Do you feel like you’re an Atletico idol?
That’s hard to say. I don’t think so. I made a good contribution this season, but you have to leave a mark to be considered an idol and I’m going to need more time to do that. I think the fans love me but I don’t feel like I’m an idol.
If what Diego Simeone said after the Europa League final is true, it looks like you won’t have enough time to make that mark.
Yes, I heard what Simeone said and I’ve heard the rumours, but the fact is I don’t know anything about it. All I want to do now is enjoy the summer and everything we’ve achieved with the club. It’s time to take things easy, now more than ever.
Staying on the subject of those rumours, you spent many years in Argentina, where moving from River Plate to Boca Juniors or vice-versa is seen as a betrayal. Is it the same with Atletico and Real Madrid?
Obviously there’s a huge rivalry between the two teams. I know some players have moved from one club to the other, but to be honest I’m not thinking about my future right now. We set off on our tour of Colombia straight after winning the Europa League and we’ve not even had a rest yet. I just want to enjoy the here and now, and that’s it.
Let’s talk about your game now. You score goals of all shapes and sizes: with your right foot, your left, your head, overhead-kicks and scissor-kicks. Which skills do you still need to work on?
I want to score from free-kicks (laughs)! That’s what I’m lacking and I’m going to give it a go. We’ve actually spoken about it and I’ll be getting my chance some time. I’ve been lucky enough in my career to play with some great set-piece specialists like Marcelo Gallardo. I was able to study him and I hope to get my opportunity soon.
A lot of people think there’s not much difference between you and Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo now. How do you feel about comments like that?
I’ve received some glowing praise from a few players, which makes me happy but also puts more responsibility on me for the future. It’s only going to motivate me to get even better and go for more records.
The Colombian people have waited a long time to see you in action outside the national team. What’s it like to be touring your home country?
It’s very special for me to be in my country after winning the Europa League. There are lots of things going through my mind right now, a lot of emotions at being here with the Colombian people and enjoying a special time in my career with them. People of all ages have been saying all these lovely things to me and they’ve been telling me how proud they are to see me representing the Colombian flag. That gives me a lift. I’m amazed by it all and very grateful.
Can you see yourself playing in the Colombian league at some point or will you make your return to South America with River Plate?
I said before that my immediate goal is to stay in Europe and make my mark there. You never know what the future’s going to bring, but right now I don’t think there’s much chance of me playing in Colombia. River is a possibility. I didn’t enjoy the club as much as I would have liked because things were hard when I was there. Time will tell, but God willing I’ll be back there one day.
River fans will be delighted to hear that for sure, but is it true that you once dyed your hair the same colour as Martin Palermo’s when you were a boy?
Yes, it is! (laughs) It was just for a bet, though. There was a clásico match one summer and if River lost, I had to dye my hair like him. I was the butt of everyone’s jokes but I don’t think there are any photos left (laughs).
Simeone was your coach in Argentina back in 2008. In what ways have you both changed since then?
El Cholo still has the same passion for football, but he’s been involved with a lot of leagues and clubs and picked up a lot of experience along the way. You can really see that. As for me, well I think I’ve matured a lot. I’ve grown as a player and I’ve perfected my game. I think I make better decisions in the area now.
Can you see Simeone coaching Argentina one day?
Yes, I think he’s a coach Argentina need to bear in mind in the future. He’s been involved with the national team virtually his whole life and knows what it takes. And it goes without saying that he’s really put in the groundwork as a coach.
Talking of Argentinian coaches, Jose Pekerman has just said that Falcao is not Colombia’s ‘saviour’. Do you agree with that or is he just trying to take the pressure off you?
I agree with what he says. Obviously individuals have a part to play but clubs and national teams are all about playing as a unit. Fortunately Colombia have put a very strong side together. A lot of our players are doing really well with some big teams in Europe, they’re the right age and they’re hungry for success. We’re mature enough now to take the step up.
One last question: how are you finding Twitter?
I wasn’t that keen on using it to begin with, but one of my friends kept pushing me to get on it and now I enjoy it. It’s a good way to interact with the fans. I’ve got about 546,000 followers now, which isn’t bad, though I’m not the only Atletico player who uses it. A lot of my team-mates are on there too.
A lot of your followers come from Colombia. Do you have a message for them ahead of the upcoming qualifiers with Peru and Ecuador?
Yes, of course. I want them to support and get behind us like they always do. We need them by our side so we can get as many points as possible and get on course for the World Cup.