Will the real Falcao stand up?

The Colombian made his debut for Chelsea, but made little impact as a substitute in their 1-0 defeat to Arsenal in the FA Community Shield. Now he must sharpen up quickly to prove he is capable of rediscovering the form that he once had. The clock is ticking. By Chris Coates.

Widely regarded as one of the best strikers in the world until recently, Radamel Falcao was an undoubted flop at Manchester United, but that has not stopped Chelsea from signing him on loan with the option of a permanent move at the end of the season.

It could prove a shrewd bit of business or a terrible decision, depending on whether the 29-year-old can reproduce the prolific form he has previously shown at Porto and Atletico Madrid. The striker is also the top goal-scorer for Colombia in the international circuit.

Falcao began his career in his home country at Lanceros Boyaca in August 1999, aged just 13. He was the youngest ever player to appear for a side in Colombia’s second division and after only eight appearances he was sold to Argentinean side River Plate in August 2001 for USD500,000.

The striker stayed with River Plate for eight years, but only came into prominence in the 2007/08 season. In his final two seasons at River Plate, Falcao scored 45 goals in all competitions and secured a move to Porto in the summer of 2009 after a proposed transfer to Benfica fell through.

The goals continued to flow in Portugal for Falcao, who scored 34 goals in his first season and 38 in his second, including the winner in the UEFA Europa League final against Braga as Porto secured the League and Cup double.

Those performances persuaded Atletico Madrid to pay Euro45 million for Falcao, making him the most expensive player in the Spanish club’s history. Their hefty investment was instantly rewarded as Atletico won the Europa League, with Falcao top scoring in the competition for the second season running. He also became the first player to win consecutive Europa League titles with different clubs. In the following season, Falcao was just as prolific as he notched 34 goals in all competitions and won his first domestic silverware with Atletico as they beat arch-rivals Real Madrid 2-1 in the Copa del Rey final.

Falcao was on the move again in May 2013 when Atletico agreed to sell him to French side AS Monaco for Euro60 million, possibly against his wishes, with the player’s third-party owners believed to have had a strong influence on the decision.

Things began well, but early in 2014 the striker suffered a serious knee injury, which ruled him out for the rest of season and, despite his best efforts to be fit in time, out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It was a huge blow for Colombia, with Falcao having scored nine goals in qualifying to help secure their place at the global showpiece.

He returned to action in July 2014 and Manchester United wasted little time in snapping him up on loan for GBP6 million, with an option for a GBP43.5 million permanent move at the end of the season.

Falcao spoke of his desire to become a legend at the club, but he was soon struggling and was often used as a substitute, receiving widespread criticism after failing to register a single shot in an FA Cup match against League One side Preston.

Falcao and his wife Lorelei Taron watch a tennis match between Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer in Madrid on May 10, 2013.-

His chances of a permanent move continued to fade when he was forced to play in an under-21 game against Tottenham, a decision described as “disrespectful” and “disgraceful” by some pundits.

By the time United announced they would not be taking up the option to buy Falcao in May, he had scored just four goals in 29 appearances. The decision looked a simple one.

Enter Jose Mourinho. Believing he can resurrect the player’s career, it was announced in July that Falcao would be joining Chelsea on a season-long loan deal, again with the option of a permanent transfer at the end of the season.

Blues boss Mourinho said: “If I can help Falcao reach his level again, I will do it. It hurts me that people in England think the real Falcao is the one we saw at United.” He made his debut for the Blues but made little impact as a substitute in their 1-0 defeat to Arsenal in the FA Community Shield.

Now he must sharpen up quickly to prove he is capable of rediscovering the form that he once had. The clock is ticking.

The Colombian is married to Argentinean singer Lorelei Taron and the couple have two children.

FACTFILE Name: Radamel Falcao Position: Striker Club: Chelsea D.O.B.: 10/2/1986 Colombia Caps: 61 Colombia Goals: 25

Moment to remember: Winning the League and Cup double with Porto in 2011.

Moment to forget: Playing in Manchester United's under-21 team after struggling to ?nd his best form at Old Trafford.

© PA Sport