From Santa Marta to Manchester United
Just after Falcao made one of the most unexpected moves of the European transfer window, he returned to the Colombian national team after a seven-month injury absence. As a young kid Radamel Falcao García Zárate dreamed of wearing the yellow Colombia shirt. ‘El Tigre’ was born in Santa Marta in 1986. He left at the age of four with his parents to move to Venezuela, where he became an avid baseball player, as well as playing football all the time at his father’s club. Several people tried to persuade him to stick to the bat and glove in the baseball mad country, but young Radamel was more fond of football.
Born: February 10, 1986
Clubs: Lanceros Boyacá, Millonarios, River Plate, FC Porto, Atletico Madrid, AS Monaco and Manchester United.
Hero: Ronaldo. In an interview with Colombian journalist Mauricio Silva he said “I love Carlos Valderrama and Faustino Asprilla but my role model is Ronaldo, the skill to get free from one or two opponents, how he finishes, the ease with which he solved plays, I always tried to imitate him.”
If there was any doubt which sport he would choose, it was made easier when the Falcao family moved to Bogota. Despite Millonarios and Santa Fe showing interest in the 10-year-old kid, he went to play at the Fair Play academy Lanceros de Boyaca, now known as Patriotas Boyaca. An old football colleague of his father owned the academy and he started his pro career surprisingly soon after. In the 1999-2000 season Lanceros registered Falcao for the league and on August 28, 1999 – Falcao was only 13 years old – he debuted in the second tier of the Colombian league.
At first he wasn’t very popular among his teammates; they felt offended that such a young player was with them. But he overcame the criticism when they saw that he was a positive asset for the team. He went on to play eight matches for the club at which he also scored his first professional goal.
When he first arrived in Bogota, Falcao went several times with his father to football matches in the city and although his dad took him to watch both Santa Fe and Millonarios, Falcao immediately became a big fan of ‘The Blues’, so when the club contacted him again he took the step and went to play in the capital.
He played less than one year for Millonarios, during which he never made it further than the reserves. River Plate came to Colombia for him and in the summer he made the move to Argentina. The footballer nowadays known as ‘El Tigre’ got his nickname in Argentina – in a local youth tournament the player of the round was crowned with the “El Tigre de Esso” award and “because he won it so often they started teasing him with that name,” recalls Gonzalo Ludueña, his teammate from that period, in an interview with the Spanish AS newspaper.
A whole bunch of other injuries delayed his debut until 2005, but he came back with a vengeance, scoring seven goals in his first seven matches, kicking off a successful career. Having just signed for ‘The Red Devils’, he has the difficult task of bringing them back to the top of the table.
By Freek Huigen