In a league dominated by Messi, Ronaldo and co., there is one man on everybody’s lips in Spanish soccer right now, and here’s a clue: he doesn’t play at the Bernabéu, or Camp Nou.
His name is Radamel Falcao García Zárate, known simply to you and I as Falcao. Bursting onto the European soccer scene in 2009 with FC Porto in Portugal, the Colombian has grown quite the reputation as the most complete number nine in world soccer, setting a new record by scoring 17 goals in 14 Europa League games in 2010/11. This prompted a big money transfer to Atlético Madrid at the start of last season, where he has replaced former captain and number nine Fernando Torres in the hearts of fans as their new hero, attracting the admiration of a certain London based Russian oligarch, and Manchester’s Abu Dhabi royalty in the process.
It will hardly come as a surprise then, that Sunday evening’s Madrid derby victory over Rayo Vallecano saw “El Tigre” was on the scoresheet once again as los rojiblancos overcame their southern city neighbor 4-3. Perhaps the only surprise is that the center forward’s name was only announced by the PA system as scoring a solitary penalty; he had a number of chances that you would have expected to make the net ripple. After all, in Atlético's previous two games he scored six goals, including a first half hat-trick in the European Super Cup against the aforementioned Russian’s Chelsea, with a couple also coming in the international break to boot.
Sunday evening’s plaudits though belonged to a different South American: Diego Costa. The Brazilian spent last season on loan at Vallecano, and has returned to the Vicente Calderón looking like a man determined to break into his country’s national side for their home World Cup in 2014, with his former team the victims of an inspired performance. Operating as a second striker, Costa laid on the first two goals for Suárez and Koke with some excellent vision. He was also felled for the penalty that Falcao (who else?) dispatched to make it 4-0 to the home side after 56 minutes.
Substitute Delibasic tapped in on 82 minutes, and renewed Vallecano hope two minutes later with a second. One minute from time Leo took advantage of woeful Atlético defending making it 4-3, causing more than a few heart palpitations in the crowd. Time, was however against the visitors, and Atlético hung on to claim a deserved, yet unnecessarily hard victory having been in such a comfortable position — thanks to what turned out to be a winning goal from that man again, Falcao.