Mourinho will not want to lose face on Falcao deal

Radamel Falcao was not a hit at Man United but could find more joy at Chelsea
playing with Diego Costa, his team-mate at Atletico Madrid.
Radamel Falcao was not a hit at Man United but could find more joy at Chelsea playing with Diego Costa, his team-mate at Atletico Madrid. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON - Chelsea were supposed to be scarred. Those costly Fernando Torres and Andriy Shevchenko episodes were meant to have warned them off forwards whose brilliance had been dulled by injuries and brittle confidence.

In that context, confirmation Radamel Falcao will be in the ranks at Stamford Bridge next season would feel like history repeating itself, an expensive mistake in the making, though the champions would dispute as much.

The loan move for the Colombian can be considered only in the context of his toils last term at Manchester United. The striker's arrival at Old Trafford had been hailed a coup even though he had sustained a knee injury that ruled him out of the World Cup.

The loanee will not assume he is an automatic selection. But Mourinho likes his fringe players to be hungry; personnel with much to prove.

United still took on his £265,000 (S$562,000) weekly salary, paid a £6 million loan fee and were promised an option to make the deal permanent for £43.2 million a year on. Those figures would not have felt that outlandish for a striker who had rampaged across Europe with Porto and Atletico Madrid.

Chelsea still recall his hat-trick in the Uefa Super Cup in 2012, and Jose Mourinho his impact in the Copa del Rey final a year later at Real Madrid's expense - and making him the most sought-after forward in the world.

The romantic notion was that he would rediscover his zest. Four goals in 29 games, a solitary shot on target in his last 12 Premier League appearances, and 71 minutes struggling to make any impact whatsoever with the club's under-21 side against Tottenham Hotspur tell their own story.

His attacking instincts in the box had been blunted. The industry and clever movement may have remained, the mind was willing but he was devoid of pace to liberate him in front of goal.

Yet, this is the 29-year-old whom Chelsea consider a risk worth taking, and Mourinho will not want to lose face on this deal.

He will want his judgment to be proved correct. He will see a player still capable of covering huge distances and whose eagerness to work in all areas of the pitch would fit into the more selfless demands of Chelsea's approach. The key to restoring Falcao will be Mourinho's ability to heal his psychological wounds.

Maybe he lacked rhythm at Old Trafford in a team in transition. At Chelsea, a side whose evolution is more advanced and who better resemble the Atletico set-up in which he had shone, he may be able to ease himself back in with Diego Costa still the attacking focal point of the side.

Falcao will play. Didier Drogba, even in the twilight of his career, featured 40 times last season and the calendar will be as crammed as ever in 2015-16.

Joining the fray once Costa has left opposing centre-halves battered and bruised could also suit Falcao, offering opportunities against tiring defenders and teams who will frequently be playing catch-up.

The loanee will not assume he is an automatic selection. But Mourinho likes his fringe players to be hungry; personnel with much to prove.

Costa's presence may be beneficial too. The pair worked together at Atletico and they know each other's games. They scored 31 goals in tandem in Spain.

Chelsea may also hope that Falcao's arrival will help Costa's assimilation, with the Spain international having conceded there have been issues over adjustment to life in England.

The Blues are not bringing in a disruptive influence. His United team-mates were surprised at how humble Falcao had been, and he will fit in at Cobham.

Coaxing him back to his best is a tough undertaking, one Louis van Gaal could not pull off. But it is a challenge Mourinho relishes.

stsports@sph.com.sg


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2015, with the headline 'Mourinho will not want to lose face on Falcao deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe