10th February – Radamel Falcao

Radamel Falcao has been one of the most prolific goalscorers in Europe over the last few years but his move to Manchester United has been very stop start because of injuries and he hasn’t quite lived up to what people expected.

Just four goals in 16 games is not that great for someone with his talents but as everyone knows the English league does take more time to adapt than any other. It is up in the air whether he will be given more than just this season at Old Trafford but it is not just him that is suffering, Robin Van Persie doesn’t look the same player this year and Wayne Rooney is being asked to play a lot deeper which has restricted his goalscoring opportunities.

Falcao is now 29 but remarkably he made his debut 16 years ago as a 13 year old in the Colombian Categoria Primera B on the 28th August 1999 for Lanceros Boyaca. Over the next two years he played eight games and scored one goal which is incredible. His performances convinced Argentinean side River Plate to sign him and after playing in their youth team he finally made his first team debut in 2005. Manager Reinaldo Merlo placed a lot of trust in Falcao and he repaid him with seven goals in seven games. But a knee injury meant that he was out for the next six months.

Falcao RP

He recovered from this and after two great seasons he was being linked with moves to Europe and eventually on the 15th July 2009 he joined Portuguese side Porto and was an instant success, scoring in the first four league matches and finished his first season with 34 goals in all competitions. The Europa League became his favourite competition as he scored a lot of goals in both years and ended the 2010-11 season with 17 goals in 14 games and just proved to everyone he should be playing at a higher level. He had found the back 72 times in all competitions for the club in just two seasons.

FC Porto's Colombian forward Radamel Fal

On the 18th August 2011 Falcao did make the move away and joined Spanish side Atletico Madrid. The goals kept flowing for him and he was once again lethal in the Europa League, helping the team win the trophy like he had done with Porto. He ended his first campaign with 36 goals, the highest ever for a player in his first year at the club. In the following season he inevitably scored goals but he also adapted his game slightly and became more than just a goalscorer and this was most shown in the Copa Del Rey final win over Real Madrid when he produced a fantastic performance and didn’t even score which would have been a rare for him earlier in his career.

Falcao AM

Then came one of the most surprising moves when he decided to leave Atletico and join Monaco. It seemed like it was going to be business as normal for the striker when he scored on his debut against Bordeaux. After hitting 11 goals in 19 games he suffered an injury that not only kept him out for the rest of the season but also the World Cup. He did return on the 10th August 2014 and scored against Lorient and then added another against Nantes before making another surprising move on loan to Manchester United.

It took him until the 5th October to score his first goal in a victory over Everton but they haven’t really flown for him since and he needs a productive end to the season if he wants to stay at the club.

The final word can go to another former Colombian striker that played in the Premier League Faustino Asprilla. “He’s a great goalscorer, a natural finisher and is among the best in the world in that position. His move took everybody by surprise. I’m sure he will do very well for Manchester United.”

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8th June – Javier Mascherano

Javier Mascherano could be the most important player in the Argentina squad and even though he won’t get the headlines like Lionel Messi or Sergio Aguero, their hopes of winning the World Cup could depend on how well he plays.

The midfielder will play just in front of the back four allowing the more attacking players to go and do what they do best with the knowledge that one of the best ball winners in Europe is protecting their defence. It is a job that only a few players can effectively do and Mascherano is one of the best at it.

The 30 year old began his career at River Plate and in his first season he won the Clausura Championship and also helped the club reach the semi finals of the Copa Libertadores, unfortunately they lost to rivals Boca Juniors on penalties. Several European clubs tried to sign Mascherano at this time, including Real Madrid but River decided to keep that player for another season. However, this one was less successful as they struggled in the league and once again lost in the semi finals of the Copa Libertadores.
LIBER CUP MASCHERANO
In 2005 he did leave the Argentinean side for Corinthians in Brazil but he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot which meant after just nine games he would not play again that season. After six months out he returned to a struggling side who were battling relegation and although his performances were still very high, the team were struggling. After just 28 games for the club, one of the most bizarre transfer happened in world football as he and Carlos Tevez joined West Ham. Mascherano did not have the same impact as Tevez and he only played 15 league games for the Hammers and in Janauary 2007 he was on the move once again.

Liverpool signed him and he made his debut against Sheffield United on the 24th February in a 4-0 win and was praised by manager Rafael Benitez. “He is young but he has great experience having played for his country. It’s clear that he is one of the best midfielders in the world but he can get better with us.” Mascherano and Xabi Alonso’s partnership in the centre of midfield was a key part of Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final.
Mascherano Liverpool
In 2008 he signed a new four year deal and within a month he scored his first Premier League goal with a 20 yard strike against Reading. The 2009-10 season was a little harder for the hard tackler as he picked up two red cards during the season and had the worst disciplinary record in the league but he was considered undroppable when available and he was quickly becoming a fans favourite. However, after the 2010 World Cup he told new manager Roy Hodgson that he wanted to leave the club.

In August 2010 he joined Barcelona and his time there did not start well as his league debut ended in a 2-0 defeat to newly promoted Hercules at home. It was a difficult first season at the Spanish club with a lot of his early appearances being as a substitute and then in the second half of the season playing out of position as a central defender. But he performed well in this position, especially in the Champions League and he started the 2011 final alongside Gerard Pique and helped his team to a 3-1 win over Manchester United. Since then he has played most of his games in defence and has been a consistent performer for the team and even though he is not the tallest, he has never let the team down.
Mascherano Barca
He is yet to score for Barcelona in his 184 appearances but he is a valued member of the team and this summer was awarded a new contract keeping him at the club until 2018.

His teammates know how important he is and the final word can go to Lionel Messi. “He has turned into a fundamental player for us. He hasn’t had a bad game for us since Guardiola put him in the middle of the defence.”

28th April – Diego Simeone

He was once most well known for being the man that got kicked by David Beckham at France 98 but he is now one of the most wanted managers in Europe.

Diego Simeone is close to giving the Atletico Madrid fans the season of their lives with the club currently leading the way in La Liga and one match away from the Champions League final. He is 44 today and even he couldn’t have imagined this year would have went so well, but as he showed his playing career he will do anything to make sure his team get their hands on the trophies at the end of the season.
Simeone Atletico
As a player he started out at Argentinean side Velez Sarsfield but after 76 league games he was on his way to Europe to play for Italian side Pisa. In his first season he got relegated with the club and when they failed to win promotion he moved to Sevilla in Spain. But it was when he made his move to Atletico Madrid that success came as he won the La Liga title and the Copa Del Rey during the 1995-96 season.

Afterwards he moved back to Italy and won more silverware, with Inter Milan he won the UEFA Cup and with Lazio under Sven Goran Eriksson he won the Italian League title after a dramatic final day and the Coppa Italia. Simeone then returned to Atletico in the summer of 2003 and played for two more seasons before returning to Argentina with Racing.
Simeone Lazio
On the international stage he played over 100 times for Argentina and he will be remembered for that incident in 1998 with David Beckham but in 2002 Beckham got his revenge by scoring a winning penalty. However Beckham learned more about the midfielder that day saying. “He showed me what a gentleman he is by coming up to me at half time and then at the end of the game shaking my hand. I have always said he is a good player and now we have a healthy respect for each other.”
Simeon Becks
After retiring he first became the manager of his final club Racing and although he was doing a decent job a change in ownership meant he was sacked. It did not take him long to get a new job as Estudiantes appointed him in the same month and Simeone repaid them by guiding them to their first title in 23 years and was later voted as the best manager in Argentina with former Argentine international Roberto Perfumo saying he was born to be a manager.

His next move was to River Plate where he did not have as much success but still had a good win percentage of 45.45%. After not winning for 11 games he handed in his resignation and was on the move to San Lorenzo where once again poor results did not help his cause and he was heavily criticised so he left them after 48 games.

Simeone decided to come back to Europe and managed Catania who he saved from relegation however he did not extend his contract and went back to managing Racing in Argentina but this only lasted 20 games and on the 23rd December 2011 he was appointed manager of Atletico Madrid. At the end of his first season he won the Europa League and then followed this up by beating Chelsea 4-1 in the Super Cup. They are now top of the league and are competing in their first Champions League semi final for the first time in 40 years.

The final word can go to his once nemesis now friend David Beckham. “I’ve been asked countless times if I have forgotten what he did in France 98. You have to forgive and forget. There is no lingering grudge between us – just mutual respect between people who regard each other as good players and professionals.”