“Three games, three goals!” they boasted in Vallecas, the working-class neighbourhood south of Madrid and home to high-flying Rayo Vallecano. Radamel Falcao is giving Rayo fans something to smile about amidst an ongoing battle with the club’s owner, Raúl Martín Presa. Hundreds of supporters lined the streets outside the club’s home ground to welcome the former Atlético Madrid striker after he joined as a free agent. But how has Radamel Falcao, a player with Manchester United, Chelsea, River Plate, Porto, Monaco, and Atlético on his CV ended up in Vallecas?
A large part of the reason for Falcao’s arrival lies with his team-mate, Mario Suárez. A decade ago, the pair played together with Atlético Madrid. Despite Falcao’s abrupt departure for Monaco in 2013 and despite the distance that has separated them, the two have kept in touch. The Colombian was a revelation at the Vicente Calderón, Atlético’s old ground. Off the field, he also left his mark and Suárez was one of those who became friends with the 35-year-old from Santa Marta, on Colombia’s northern coast.
El Mundo reveals that it was Mario Suárez who suggested that the club sign Falcao to club president Raúl Martín Presa. The midfielder, who arrived in Vallecas in January 2019, told Presa that the possibility existed and acted as an intermediary between the two parties. Some sections of Rayo were wary of signing a veteran striker with thousands of miles on the clock.
On transfer deadline day, August 31, Falcao was still a Galatasaray player. El Tigre was glued to the phone in Bolivia, where he was on international duty with the Colombia national team. For the deal to actually go ahead, it was necessary to reach an agreement with the Turkish giants to be able to leave on a free as he still had one year left on his contract. After midnight, the news was confirmed and on September 4 – after several days of anxious waiting – Rayo made it official. The newly-promoted side had brought Falcao back to La Liga, where he would wear red and white once again.
The operation came at the last minute. Rayo had previously focused their efforts on securing the signing of striker Sergi Guardiola from Segunda outfit Real Valladolid. Falcao’s wife, who was looking forward to returning to Madrid, the city they fell in love with between 2011 and 2013, was another key factor in the move. El Tigre has hit the ground running despite many questioning if he could do it or not at 35. Three goals in three games proves he still has it in his locker, a lethal finisher in the box, and one that already has Rayo fans dreaming of a European place. At the time of writing, they sit 5th in La Liga, just three points off Real Sociedad in second. It has been a remarkable start to life for the club on their return to Spain’s top flight. Many will be content with survival this season, but with Falcao in town, anything is possible.
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PODCAST | The Get Spanish Football News Show – Episode 17 – Tommy Hay is joined by freelance journalist and Rayo Vallecano supporter Paul Reidy for a deep dive into the historic Spanish club.