Falcao scores hat-trick as Atlético beat Chelsea in UEFA Super Cup
The very method that allowed Chelsea to secure a place in the Monaco showpiece deserted them spectacularly during it.
Last spring, a steady reliance on stoic defensive brilliance led to the realisation of a European dream, but in the consequential UEFA Super Cup, no defence was even evident.
A fresh and hungry Atletico Madrid side put Chelsea to the sword with exuberant pace, magnificent sharpness and sensational imagination. For Diego Simeone's team, however, one man shone brighter than any other. Radamel Falcao. A player truly incomparable in the game today.
Why Falcao is the greatest striker in the world
Falcao harbours insatiable movement, perpetual and mesmeric of description. He has an inexorable desire to instigate attacking chaos and, above all else, a deadly instinct in front of goal. By far, he is the best of a dying breed.
That breed is what we may call the ‘out-and-out’ striker. Modern tactical thought often calls for a small and sophisticated linkman as the fulcrum of a silky passing machine. Ancient tactical thought still compels certain managers to employ an imposing centre forward as a means of long-ball carnage. Falcao, however, is a paragon of forward play, uniting the nimble touch and auspicious vision of a floating striker with the ruthless physicality and clinical finishing of a talismanic forward.
Undoubtedly, he is the best in the world at what he does.
Sure, there are better forwards. Lionel Messi, the greatest player ever to lace a pair of boots, weaves and intertwines his magnificence from a nomadic position on the field, distinctly not as a true centre forward. Cristiano Ronaldo, too, is a magician from a wide left berth. But Falcao is different, leading the line with Messi-eque excitement and a clinical potential so synonymous with Ronaldo. That is not to say that Radamel Falcao exceeds as a footballer the potential nor talent of Messi or Ronaldo, but it is to say that, as a legitimate line-leading, goal-scoring, play-linking talisman, he is unchallenged in his own domain.
Falcao destroys Chelsea to lift 2012 UEFA Super Cup
Chelsea could not live with him. Somehow, in times gone by, manager Roberto Di Matteo had conjured plans to deal with Edinson Cavani, Oscar Cardozo, Mario Gomes and Messi. Yet repeatedly, the elusive Colombian evaded defensive attention to fire his club to yet more European glory.
It speaks volumes of the talent of such a player that, against Europe's most debated and discussed defence, he produced a unique left-footed, first-half hat-trick, a second in five days. He is operating in a different stratosphere.
For Falcao, his first goal was simple. A winding, curved run, the like of which he could make while sleeping, was matched by an exquisite midfield pass, leaving only a delicately lofted finish beyond Petr Čech and beautifully into the bottom corner of the sagging net. Only a player of such unique and multifarious talent could produce with precocious ease a strike of such unabashed beauty.
His second goal was even better, though, a microcosm of an illustrious career that continues to improve on the already sublime. Movement beyond the kin of Gary Cahill and David Luiz liberated the hotshot forward into a delightful position from which to capitalise on a mistake that he knew would arrive. It was not a coincidence that it did arrive, for players at this level create their own luck. A trademark moment of contemplation and reflection preceded Falcao's stunning finish, crafted and teased around Čech and inside the far post for a poetic goal.
Before half-time, Chelsea were resigned to defeat, resigned to the majesty and supremacy of a dazzling marksman at the top of his game. A scintillating counter-attack from Atletico seemed strange for it had not featured Falcao in its build up. He was there at the end, however, as always present in a bubble of space created by his own wizardry, awaiting ammunition. A pass from Arda Touran pass unfurled play towards Falcao, who rasped a low drive underneath the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
What does the future hold for Radamel Falcao?
This Monaco tale was a familiar one for Falcao. He has scored six goals in three European finals, adding depth and shine to an awesome continental CV. Eventually, this unstoppable striker will receive a chance to score his goals, please his fans and carry his team on the biggest stages of all.
A bucket full of Europa League and Super Cup goals should rightfully lead to an opportunity to star at the very centre of UEFA's most prestigious tournament. More than any current player, he will deserve it.
Radamel Falcao, the last great centre forward, will not be far away from Champions League glory soon. All we can do is watch and obey.