While Cristiano Ronaldo was crowned the world’s best player in 2014 at the FIFA Ballon d’Or gala, Colombia’s James Rodriguez walked away with another prestigious award: the Puskas prize for the year’s most spectacular goal. James scored with a stunning turn and volley against Uruguay, in the second round match at Rio’s Maracana stadium – one of the six goals that also earned him the Golden Boot at the World Cup in Brazil last summer.
James’s goal earned 42 percent of the over three million votes cast by fans, beating Irishwoman Stephanie Roche (33%) and Robin Van Persie (11%), whose goal was also in the World Cup, against Spain. In contrast, Roche’s goal in the Irish Women’s National League was seen at the time by a crowd of less than 100. Meanwhile, James’ rise to stardom at the World Cup saw him transferred to Real Madrid for €80m, also leading to him being voted the 8th best player in the world in last year with 1.5 percent of votes.
Inside view: Is Falcao still “one of the very best in the world”?
Despite being fully fit, Falcao was omitted from the 16-man matchday squad for Manchester United’s home match against Southampton on January 11. While 1-0 down against the visitors, coach Louis Van Gaal could only bring on the disappointing Marouane Fellaini to help find a goal, having decided earlier to exclude Falcao. Falcao started the next match against QPR, but failed to score.
After the Southampton match, Falcao’s agent Jorge Mendes suggested Falcao may not stay at Manchester United. “He will play in one of the very best clubs in the world next season, whether that is Manchester United or not,” he said. “They have an absolutely brilliant player, one of the very best in the world, who would without any doubt play 90 minutes of the match, every time, with any other club.”
But Mendes’ assertion is now up for debate. Up until a year ago, Falcao was a genuine football superstar, a player with the ability to enhance any team in world football, as Mendes says. But last January he injured his anterior cruciate ligament, robbing him of the chance to play for Colombia at last summer’s World Cup and placing his future in doubt. He has continued to struggle with injury at in Manchester, and has only scored three goals in more than ten hours of action.
There now must be serious doubts about the level at which Falcao is able to play. His current asking price is £40m ($150bn COP) and he earns a whopping £265,000 every week ($980m COP). Meanwhile Europe’s richest clubs including Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain are being forced by UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations to balance their books. Spending that amount of money on a possibly washed-up Falcao must now constitute a huge risk.
“If a player costs £95m or £5,000, it doesn’t make any difference,” Van Gaal said later. “You have to prove yourself.”
As galling as it may be for El Tigre, if he’s going to justify his agent’s claims and financial demands, he can no longer rely on his former superstar status.
2015 Liga Aguila to kick-off with Superliga
Amidst a flood of transfers and squad changes, plus Aguila becoming the new league sponsor, the new season is about to kick-off with the mouthwatering Superliga tie between heroes Independiente Santa Fe and villains Atletico Nacional.
Nacional, winners of the Apertura back in June of last year, have been the strongest Colombian side over the last couple of years. A marathon 86 matches in 2014 might have left them heavy-legged, however, and the loss of Colombian internationals Edwin Cardona and Alex Mejia to Mexican side Monterrey will affect the squad, which has few new names.
Santa Fe, on the other hand, sealed their spot in the Superliga (and picked up their eighth star) by winning the Finalización in December. The Bogota side were the most consistent over the season but were a bit lucky to pick up the title after some shaky performances.
The departure of goalkeeper Camilo Vargas is a huge blow for the team. Colombia’s number two goalie is the centre of a transfer soap opera. In the latest installment, Nacional claimed to have signed him. However, the protagonist, for reasons that remain unclear, refuses to play for Nacional, and is set to continue his career outside the country.
The first leg in Medellin will be on Saturday, January 24 at 19:00, with the return on Tuesday, January 27.
Make sure you pick up the next edition of The Bogota Post for a comprehensive preview of the new season.
By Ally Brown