Gareth McKnight takes a look at life after Radamel Falcao and how the club have coped in the past.
The news was announced this week by Radamel Falcao's twitter account, of his move to French club Monaco, in what will be a blow for the leagues third placed outfit. Although the Colombian’s departure will be a setback for Diego Simeone’s men, one consolation is that Los Colchoneros has been in similar situations in the recent past.
Since the La Liga success of the 1995-96 season, Atlético has struggled to go head-to-head with Spain’s top teams. In the last 15 years the club have suffered the embarrassment of relegation to the Segunda Division, and have had to watch on as cross-town opposition Real fight for the championship on a perennial basis.
Back-to-back fourth-placed finishes in 2007-08 and 2008-09 showed that Atlético had the potential to get back into the mix. A 2011-12 Europa League success catapulted the club back into the limelight on the continent, and the recent Copa Del Rey final victory over their bitterest rivals, and their qualification for next season’s Champions League, shows that Atléti are a club on the rise.
However, a blessing and a curse in recent times has been the rise to prominence of a world-class striker at the Vicente Calderón, only for that player then to be sold. Falcao is the latest in a list of excellent marksmen to make a big name for himself at the club and then auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Homegrown product Fernando Torres was the first to prove his worth, before being sold. The Spain international had six seasons in the Atléti first-team, and it is arguable that this was the period of the forward’s career where he was at the height of his powers.
Atlético will have been expecting that Torres would be destined for a move elsewhere, and planned intelligently for his departure. Diego Forlan, who was a proven goalscorer at Villarreal, was signed as his replacement immediately. The money from the Torres deal was reinvested to bring the Uruguayan to the capital.
Add to this that a young Argentine star had been signed the season before, in the form of Sergio Agüero. Despite being the tender of age of 18, they had seen the potential in the South American, and the club’s attacking potency was not diminished by Torres’ exit.
When Agüero was sold to Manchester City, and Forlan to Inter, Falcao was brought to Madrid. Though this time the transfer dealings were a little murkier, while the club inherited in excess of €65 million through the sales of Agüero and David De Gea to the Manchester clubs, they only paid out in the region of €20 million for the Colombian, with the Doyen Group footing the rest of the bill. The rest of the transfer profit was used to service debt, now they must find a worthy replacement, without the cash that many perceive the club to actually possess.
Given that Falcao is one of the most lethal strikers in the European game, finding someone to fill his boots will be difficult. Someone like Porto’s Jackson Martinez, or a move for Valencia’s Roberto Soldado, perhaps in the capital city’s thoughts. Owner Gil Marín has already admitted that Sevilla’s Álvaro Negredo could well be an option. Given that Falcao has scored 28 league goals this season, the purchase of two strikers may be necessary to fill the void.
Atlético fans are bound to be disappointed that their talisman is leaving the club this summer. However, the club are heading in the right direction on the pitch - if not off it. With memorable tournament victories in their last two seasons and Champions League football for next term, as long as a high-quality replacement is found, Atléti can continue their quest to break up the big two’s dominance over Spanish football.
Gareth McKnight is the La Liga editor at Soccerlens.com