Radamel Falcao has completed a loan move from Monaco to Chelsea that few can have anticipated as his debut season in English football wore on.
The Colombian scored just four times in 26 Premier League appearances for Manchester United, doing little to convince anyone that he was the same player as he had been before injuring his cruciate ligament prior to the 2014 World Cup.
Yet he’s 17/20 to net over 11.5 goals for the Blues in the 2015/16 campaign, suggesting that either the west London club are privy to some next-level physiological information on the state of El Tigre’s knee or Jose Mourinho has other ideas as to why he failed to catch fire last term.
Given the storied nature of Falcao’s injury and rehabilitation, the latter is far more likely and, harking back to his heyday at Atletico Madrid, it’s easy to see why.
Back when the English footballing public were wondering why on earth Liverpool were bidding in excess of £20m for Diego Costa (summer 2013), the Spa-zilian had just concluded a season of second-fiddle spadework for his then more-illustrious colleague.
Diego Simeone would often harness the pair in the kind of old school 4-4-2, that was being derided as a ‘dark ages’ formation by Gary Lineker literally days after Atleti used it defeat Real Madrid in that season’s Copa del Rey Final.
That Falcao was far less effective as a solo line leader was, even then, widely acknowledged. Colombia coach Jose Pekerman used him in tandem with Teofilo Gutierrez, often to the detriment of his side’s own midfield durability.
Manchester United played formations with two centre-forwards no fewer than 21 times and each of the ’28-year-old’s’ four league strikes came when started as part of a duo, yet such permutations were mostly used earlier on in campaign, when Louis van Gaal was still struggling to meld an identity from the post-David Moyes malaise.
By the time the side had finally clicked – the 3-0 hammering of Tottenham that was swiftly followed by the 4-2 win over Manchester City – 4-1-4-1 was the go-to set up and Falcao was superfluous.
Chelsea have no such identity crisis and in Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic a midfield two more than capable of handling the burden of playing in a 4-4-2.
Out wide they can call upon Eden Hazard and Willian, two outlets with the industry and defensive diligence to match their attacking gifts, while up front they have none other than the man who formed such a successful partnership with Falcao back in 2012/13.
Could it be that Mourinho plans to take Chelsea back to the ‘dark ages’ on a regular basis next season? The bwin layers who have set his 2015/16 Premier League starts bar at 15.5, with 17/20 the odds either side, certainly seem to be of that impression.