In the second instalment of an in-depth interview, Colombia forward Radamel Falcao discusses his spells with Atlético Madrid and Monaco, and – as the latter prepare for their last-16 second leg with Manchester City – describes his dream of captaining ASM’s exciting young side to victory in the Cardiff final.
Key moments discussed in this interview
2011: Fresh from winning Portuguese double and UEFA Europa League with Porto, joins Atlético to be reunited with old River Plate coach Diego Simeone.
2012: For second season running wins UEFA Europa League and finishes competition top scorer, and also lifts UEFA Super Cup; named man of match in both finals.
2013: Returns to scene of UEFA Super Cup victory by signing for Monaco.
2016: After loans at Man. United and Chelsea, rejoins Monaco and is made captain by Leonardo Jardim; regains form last seen before injury in January 2014.
2017: Aims to win UEFA Champions League for first time, with Monaco’s talented young team already in round of 16.
UEFA.com: After winning the treble with Porto you went to Atlético Madrid, who had already had several top Colombian players in their history. Were you always attracted to the Spanish league?
Radamel Falcao: Yes, indeed. The Liga and Atlético Madrid, who have the best fans in Spain in my opinion, have always been part of my dreams, but it was also a big challenge. We played in the Europa League that season, and one of our main goals was lifting the trophy. As we advanced through the various rounds, this dream was getting closer and closer.
I had already won the trophy the year before, and I couldn’t wait to do the double. And eventually we managed to win the trophy and I was top scorer in the competition for the second season running, with two goals in the final. I enjoyed that second final a lot more to be honest. The previous year I just wanted it to end, nothing more.
I just wanted to win. I played very poorly in that final, but by the following year with Atlético, European finals were no longer a novelty so I was able to handle the match a lot better. I managed to enjoy that match a lot, and I think that was the most important lesson I took from that final in Bucharest.
UEFA.com: I don’t know if I can use the word ‘fate’, but that was the period Diego Simeone became Atleti coach. You are a lucky man, because millions of boys and girls would like to know what it’s like to work under Simeone. Can you describe it?
Falcao: I’d already had the opportunity to work with Simeone at River Plate and we won the league. When I was told he was about to sign for Atlético, I started to believe and was convinced he was the right person at the right place. He went there with his focused approach and his habit of working hard and always giving his best.
He always tries to make the most out of his players and eventually managed to help everyone improve their standard, win the Europa League and improve our position in the league.
UEFA.com: In my opinion, your best ever match was the 2012 UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea in Monaco. I don’t know if you already knew this, but Monaco’s owner was there watching and he suddenly said: “I am going to sign that guy!” Did you know this? What did it feel like to be so dominant in such an important match like the Super Cup against Chelsea?
Falcao: Atlético played a really amazing game. We scored three goals in the first half, and we also hit the post and Petr Čech pulled off an amazing save. That was down to the whole team’s superb performance; we prepared very well and carefully studied their style of play.
We completely overwhelmed them. It seemed a tall order, because they had just won the Champions League, but this is football and these things can happen. That was one of the happiest and most joyous nights in the history of the club. It was the last European trophy won by Atlético and a really unforgettable night.
UEFA.com: What are your main sources of motivation to always give something more every day?
Falcao: I think it’s the opportunity to continue breaking records, either set by other people or by myself. I think that’s what pushes me to always make the most of myself and be very demanding on myself.
This can sometimes be a negative because it always forces me to give everything and never leave any energy to spare, but I think this is the only way to keep growing and to always be a bit better than you were in the past.
UEFA.com: You’ve been named Monaco’s captain, which is something very special in any career. How’s it going? Do you give your captaincy a lot of thought? And what do you get out of being the leader of such a fine team?
Falcao: Being captain of this club is a privilege. It’s an honour to get to lead this group of immensely talented players, many of whom will go on to be important world-class figures in the future, in my opinion.
I’m enjoying it and trying to embrace the responsibility. When I see fit, I’m drawing on my experience to try to spur us on to our targets, and to help individual players if they ever have specific needs. That’s the gist of it: I’m trying to pass on my experience.
UEFA.com: Monaco always strike me as a club full of young talent that oozes creativity and energy. Can you describe the atmosphere at the club?
Falcao: Most of the team are very young and these youngsters are highly talented. They’ve got outstanding technique and they’ve got what it takes to make the difference. They’re great one-on-one, fast and strong, and I think they’re going to be world-class players, although that depends on their mentality as individuals.
There’s a fantastic atmosphere: they’re very ambitious players and they’ve got a good mindset. When you’re getting positive results, it makes it easier to work, so we have a good time together on a daily basis and we’re enjoying this season.
UEFA.com: What about Leonardo Jardim – what is he doing that’s so special?
Falcao: He’s a very intelligent coach who reads games very well. He’s also very good at reading players and understanding what they need.
Those man-management skills have served him very well when dealing with this squad. He realised that he’s got some very young players who still have some maturing to do in footballing terms, and he’s patient and relaxed enough to teach them, which is the most important thing.
I think that’s played a major role in the team’s performances and is one of the reasons we are where we are in the league.
UEFA.com: All genuine football lovers must be thrilled to see you back firing on all cylinders and banging in the goals. Why is it that you’re scoring so many goals at the moment?
Falcao: This season I’m getting a regular run of games and I’m being very consistent. The club have shown total faith in me, and the coaching staff and team have made me feel very important.
I think it’s all about confidence and having a regular run in the team. The rest takes care of itself; a footballer never forgets how to play football, and I’m convinced that game time, matches, was all I needed because ultimately no one forgets how to score goals.
UEFA.com: Do you dream of lifting the UEFA Champions League trophy in Cardiff? Do you feel like this competition is calling out to you after having achieved so much else in your career?
Falcao: Yes, of course I have those dreams. If I’d stopped dreaming, I don’t think I’d be here; I’d be somewhere else. I still have those dreams every day.