Nowadays remembered as one of the most deadly and clinical finishers Colombia has ever produced, we remember where it all began for the Southern American star.
One thing that’s clear from Radamel Falcao’s journey with River Plate, is that it shows how pivotal a country’s developmental setup can prove to be for the overall career of their best prospects.
Especially when it comes to priming them for how tough the professional life would be in the level they aspire to be at.
Personally, I’ve generally been quite critical of how homegrown ballers develop in England. Primarily because I think their version of the game softens them and gives them this false sense of security for how ‘the grown up’ football world really is.
Don’t get me wrong, the current U-18 and U-23 setup lends itself to develop the technical qualities of their participants, but sometimes, it pays to be somewhere which tests your character on top of all that.
Especially in a surrounding which is alien to the majority of your overseas competition …
Another thing – captured so vividly by the BBC Sport documentary here – is that because the two levels are so far apart from one another (from developmental to the first team), issues become apparent only when a final, telling decision can be made.
So, it makes you think, why not prepare them for competitive football right from the off.
Fortunately for a young Radamel Falcao, fresh off of being made an official River Plate newbie for a now-nominal $500,000 fee, his club employed (and still operate) within a league-based system for their youngsters.
And no, not against others of their age in similar setups, but in official constitutions peppered with a mix of seasoned and budding football players against whom they can truly test their mental and physical capabilities in the game.
It was within such a setting that Radamel Falcao would sharpen up the tools required of being able to make his professional debut for the first team a mere four years after joining their academy clan.
It’s safe to say he didn’t disappoint once he got there!
Whereby, at the age of only nineteen, he was able to quickly establish himself as a fast-developed youngster able to hold his own with such pressure on him.
Right throughout his four-years at River, we got to see pretty much a macrocosmic view of what would turn out to be the full career evolution for Radamel Falcao.
The temperament was there – as would come to be expected from a youngster – the injuries (very unfortunately) were there too. Something this guy knows all too well!
But what stands out to me most is his calculated view on what it meant to be a goalscorer.
Something very few strikers are born with, let alone are able to develop.
Blessed with this deity-driven ability to sniff out an opportunity and powerhouse his way into a goal-scoring position, it didn’t take long for River fans (or indeed their manager, Diego Simeone) to notice and bank on their wonder kid’s qualities for scoring whenever the game needed him to do so.
‘Radamel Falcao’ was a name they were happy to shout.
So it’s no wonder that he would become the main man for the club in his final two seasons in South America following his first injury setback.
Since the end of that 2007/08 season, it’s come out that the likes of A.C. Milan and Aston Villa were set to take the Colombian to their own rosters, before River stepped in to see out one more year with the club.
A savvy decision it turned out to be, with Radamel Falcao ending the following year with over 40 goals in all competitions.
Looking back, it’s pretty shameful how some disregard just how good Radamel Falcao was due to his later form-related issues with the likes of Monaco, Manchester United and Chelsea.
But the thing is, not only are each of these circumstances explainable in their own, tragic ways, but his pedigree more than speaks for itself in defence.
He was an insatiable, powerful and explosive goal-scorer. And there should be no doubt about how good he was.