The fans willed it to happen and it did. Just 10 minutes after coming off the bench to make his debut for Rayo Vallecano, Radamel Falcao was celebrating his first goal in front of the largest crowd the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas had seen since before the pandemic.
Already, a couple thousand fans had attended the striker’s presentation on Thursday. On Saturday, for the visit of Getafe, thousands queued up from 08:00 in the morning to get their hands on a ticket for the Falcao festival. Some wore Colombia shirts with the 35-year-old’s name on the back, while there was even one supporter sporting a top-to-toe tiger costume for El Tigre. There was anticipation in the air.
As Falcao finished his warm-up midway through the second half, there was a buzz inside the ground and he received a standing ovation when substituted on in the 71st minute. A few minutes later, Ismaila Ciss doubled Rayo Vallecano‘s lead over Getafe to 2-0, before Ciss then perfectly threaded the needle to pick out Falcao inside the penalty box in the 81st minute. From there, Falcao did what he does best. He fired the ball into the net to complete a statement 3-0 victory.
That kind of talent doesn’t ever disappear, even with older age and more frequent injuries. That’s why there’s such optimism at Rayo Vallecano right now. The signing of Colombia’s all-time top scorer isn’t a gimmick. Falcao can and should play a lot.
First, though, he’ll have to compete for a starting spot and that won’t just be given to him by coach Andoni Iraola – who knows Falcao‘s brilliance all too well from captaining the losing Athletic Club side in the 2012 Europa League final, when El Tigre ran the show.
Randy Nteka has been leading the line for Rayo so far and, even if the Frenchman isn’t a natural No.9, he has been doing a good job. Falcao will have to prove that he deserves to start ahead of or alongside Nteka.
Of course he has what it takes to do that, with a little time. Not only was Falcao‘s goal against Getafe well taken, but the striker also caught the eye with the few opportunities he had against the Azulones to hold the ball up and connect with his new teammates.
Falcao’s dream of scoring more than 15 goals
Speaking on Thursday night with Spanish radio station Cadena Cope, Falcao was asked to set a target for the number of goals he’ll score with Rayo Vallecano in 2021/22.
After initially evading the question like he does opposing centre-backs, it was suggested to Falcao that 15 might be a reasonable number.
“Why settle for 15 goals if I can dream of scoring more?” he responded, confidently.
To even net another 14 times over the remaining 33 LaLiga Santander fixtures this season would be a big ask for a player who missed 25 games through injury in 2020/21 and 23 games through injury in 2019/20.
Plus, Falcao is no longer playing for one of the best sides in his league, as has been the case throughout his career. Now, he is representing a relegation battler and no striker in last year’s relegation tussle achieved more goals than the 13 of Huesca‘s Rafa Mir – who featured in all 38 of his side’s LaLiga Santander matches over that season.
So, no. A 35-year-old injury-prone centre-forward for one of LaLiga Santander’s weakest sides can’t expect to score 15 or more goals in a season. But yes, Falcao can achieve a double digit goal tally with Rayo Vallecano this term. El Tigre is special and he already has one goal from 20 minutes of play. He can surely ripple the net nine more times over the remainder of this 2021/22 season.