Radamel Falcao, captain and top scorer of AS Monaco, confided to Nice-Matin for the first time since his arrival on The Rock in 2013.
The Colombian gets straight to the point. Three years we’ve been waiting for this moment. Radamel Falcao has finally confided to Nice-Matin. For the interview, we were outside of the Turbie Training Centre. We sat on the terrace, not far from the Grimaldi Forum. Before sitting down, we met Jemerson who was walking around. We had a coffee, Falcao had an espresso Machiatto. And the Colombian talked for more than half an hour about his resurrection.
A year ago, “the Tiger” was not playing any more, he was shouting from Chelsea’s bench. Even his own country had forgotten him. Returning to The Rock this Summer, Falcao scored the net (14 goals in 16 games) and the national team. So it was a happy ‘Tiger’ who confided in us.
This season, you also made the Colombian national team, what does that represent to you?
There is nothing better for a footballer than representing your country. I came back after a year away, it was fantastic to return. The wait was long on both sides, so I am grateful.
How did you experience your absence for more than a year?
It was very difficult… At the beginning, I was wounded so I did not suffer from being absent. When I made my return to the field I wasn’t chosen to play, it was complicated. When one follows the matches from the outside, one is inhabited by a feeling of helplessness.
Your father was a footballer, what role did he play in your career?
My dad is very important. He was a defender; it is a risky position because, with the slightest error, you pay. When I was a kid he was still a football player so I realized the pressure he had on his shoulders. When I started football, he immediately advised me not to play defense (laughs). So I started attacking. Even today, I call him after each game to debrief. He gives me a lot of advice.
You are a Colombian, yet you are named after a Brazilian player, Falcao. That’s not common.
My father was a fan of Falcao, he was his idol. Still is. It was a way of paying homage to him. When I played in Argentina, the real Falcao learned that I was carrying his name and he contacted me to congratulate me. It was quite funny.
At 5, your father was signed to a Venezuelan club. On the spot, you discovered another sport, baseball.
In Colombia, no one knows that sport (laughs). In Venezuela, everyone plays it so I did too. And I was pretty good; I finished in the regional team. I played third base. But my father wanted me to play football, so we quickly returned to Colombia. And I stopped baseball at that time.
In January 2014, you suffered a serious knee injury. What do you remember from this day?
It’s a dark day in my career. It was difficult because it changed a lot of things, such as missing the World Cup with my country six months later. It was difficult to live through but I believe nothing happens by chance. It allowed evolving as a man. I learned a lot about myself in the months that followed.
The Chasselay player, Soner Ertek, who had injured you in Lyon, had the same injury earlier this season.
I did not know that. It is the worst injury that can happen to a football player. I wish him a speedy recovery and quick return to the field.
In August 2014, you had played for a month with the ASM before going to Manchester. Why?
I wanted to discover the English championship, it was the opportunity to play for Manchester United. It’s not because of my injury, not at all.
“Manchester City? It is a great club, which has more experience than us. But we will play our game there”
“I gave up having long hair because my wife asked me too. So to please her I cut it all off.”
“I do not set goals. When we set limits, we stop along the way and I want to go as high as possible.”
“We want to achieve great things”
It is often said that attackers know their statistics perfectly well, is that true in your case?
At the moment, I do not read newspapers too much but I see the figures on social networks. I also get a lot from them. But for me, I don’t count on them.
You’ve had 14 goals in 16 matches in all competitions. Did we find the Falcao of 2013?
It’s hard to compare, so much has changed. I’ve changed, my objectives have changed. I think the team is based on a very strong collective. My two years in England have served me as a man and allowed me to be a better player. I also have the trust of my teammates and my coach, which gives me a lot of confidence and serenity.
You suffered a serious knee injury in January 2014. Did you have to change your game to get back to the top?
I do not think a player changes fundamentally. I remained the same player, I make the same calls and I always try to find myself in the right place, at the right time, to score. Instinct is not something physical. I have matured, I have more experience, I progressed in other aspects of my game, having played in England, experienced another kind of football made me grow. My football has matured.
“The captain’s armband is a trusted brand”
You got very fit in August before hurting yourself against Fenerbahçe. A month later, another injury against Nice. Did you doubt yourself at this time?
I had not played for a long time, when you come back and you play many matches, you get hurt. This is exactly what happened with Fenerbahçe. Facing Nice, it was a shock, it was a gamble, it could have happened to any player.
Did something click this season? During the Moscow match you seemed to progress.
I needed time to regain rhythm, confidence. Against Moscow progress was visible, it is true. But it is above all the fruit of several months of work, of patience. In the face of CSKA Moscow, maybe something happened because I found truth. It could have happened earlier without the injuries, but Moscow was revealing.
Are your physical problems behind you?
I feel good; I take advantage of each game to regain my level.
At the beginning of the season, you inherited the captain’s armband. What does this mean to you?
It is a mark of trust and responsibility as well. When the club, the players and the coach gave me this armband, I was very touched. I still want to help this group that works very well.
The group is very young. What is your role with young players?
They are young but above all very talented. Beyond that, I am especially impressed by their maturity, they are very talented and they have the strength to assume the roles of playing in this club. This is not given to everyone who is 18, 19, 20 years old. My role is simple, I am here to remind everyone each game that nothing is assumed. We must constantly question ourselves to keep everyone focused. We are a group that wants to achieve great things.
Like being champion of France, for example?
Everyone wants to be a champion but thinking for today does not make sense, it is necessary to concentrate above all on the next match. If you play every game like a final, you’ll fight differently. And if you project too far ahead, you will lose in combativity.
Marseille: 4-0, Bastia: 5-0, Bordeaux: 4-0, Rennes: 7-0, how do you, as an attacker, live this current offensive madness?
It is everyone’s ambition to participate and to help win. We see, even those who return during the match want to bring their stone to the building. It is not conventional that the substitutes bring as much to each match, it is undoubtedly unique in Europe, it is the proof that the team has something more.
You signed to River Plate at 13, how can one live being uprooted so young?
I have always wanted to succeed, to do this, you have to make sacrifices like leaving your family. At first, it was not easy to be far from mine, not to be in my country and not to have the life of a 13-year-old. But when you want to do something, you have to go through it. My dream has always been to play football. To make a dream is to make sacrifices. That’s what I did.
In Argentina, you started studying journalism. You could have been in my place now.
(Laughs). Yes, I started a course because it was a path that attracted me. But the first courses coincided with my professional debut with River Plate, so it was complicated to combine both and I had to concentrate thoroughly on football. I did not know if I wanted to do written press, television or radio, I finally chose football.
It was at the same time we began to call you ‘The Tiger’, how did this nickname happen? It was an Argentinian team-mate, Gonzalo Luduena, who called me that because he thought I looked like a tiger when I was playing.
Do you like this nickname?
Yes, ‘the tiger’ is better than being nicknamed ‘the cat’ (laughs).
Tell us about your arrival in Europe, in Porto.
It was the right time, I think. I was 23 years old, had just had good seasons with River Plate. Porto is a great club; it was the perfect springboard to change continents and life. I was ready for the big jump, and the coach I had in Porto, Jesualdo Ferreira, was the ideal guide to acclimatize me. I had the opportunity to score very quickly, everything went very well.
After two seasons in Porto, you went to Madrid where you became a star. In 2013, all of Europe wanted to recruit you but you choose Monaco, a French promo. Why?
The prospect of a very ambitious club, who wanted to win all the competitions, seduced me. And being a key player in this project convinced me to come here.
You are a strong believer, how has religion been important in your career?
My faith is very important, not only in my job as a footballer but also on a daily basis, with my wife, my daughters, I try to follow the principles of my religion.
Are you happy again today?
Yes. Whether it is me, my family or my loved ones, we are very happy in Monaco. Everything is going well, professionally and personally.