This January’s transfer window is likely to be an active one for clubs across Europe. The first half of the new season has highlighted weaknesses in squads that need to be corrected soon to prevent the proverbial wheels from coming off. In the EPL, Newcastle’s lack of depth is a worry for boss Alan Pardew as he competes in competitions domestically and in Europe. Liverpool’s lack of striking options have been a source of discussion, with Rodgers likely to buy a new player despite the option to recall Andy Carroll. And Chelsea may finally call time on the Torres project and splash out on a new striker, despite the Spaniard starting to show his former self in the past few games.
Chelsea have been linked heavily with goal sensation Falcao, who continues to strike fear into defenders across the world. The prolific Colombian striker, who single handily destroyed Chelsea in the Super Cup Final, will demand a high transfer fee but this is unlikely to put off owner Roman Abramovich. Falcao can operate as a solo front man or as part of a strike partnership so current blues boss Rafa Benetiz may be looking towards Falcao as a partner for Torres, rather than a direct replacement. For 26-year-old Falcao, (full name Radamel Falcao García) goals seem to come naturally for him, no matter where he plays. At River Plate, where he got his break into professional football, he scored 34 times in 90 appearances which attracted the attention of clubs across Europe. FC Porto secured his signature in July 2009 for a meagre fee of only €3.93 million and instantly started to repay them. Falcao scored in his first 4 games for Porto and continued to do so, racking up 41 goals in 51 appearances over two years for the Portuguese club, helping them to the league title, 2 Portuguese cups and most importantly Europa League triumph. Porto struggled to hold on to their dynamo striker and eventually gave in selling him to Aletico Madrid for €40 million in 2011. His form has continued in Madrid, where the colombian has hit 40 goals in 48 games , winning the Europa League again for the second year running and bagging the Super Cup as well following that thrilling performance against Chelsea. He has gradually become the most feared striker in Europe and sits top of most clubs wish lists this Christmas.
Falcao will rightly be the source of a lot of speculation in January but it could be the man brought in to replace him at Porto that grabs the headlines. Brazilian Givanildo Vieira de Souza or better known as Hulk is another player who made his name in Europe with the portuguese giants. Hulk, like his namesake, is a powerful striker who picked up where Falcao had left off and scored over 54 goals in 99 games before a €60 million move this summer to Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg. His transfer, along with Benfica midfielder Axel Witsel, caused uproar at Zenit when his new teammates learned how much the duo would be paid. Captain Igor Denisov, flanked by striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov spoke up about the gap in wages between Hulk and Witsel and the rest of the squad, reportedly three times as much, deciding to go not only to the club’s manager and owners but to the press as well. This act led to Denisov and Kerzhakov being fined and dropped into the club’s youth team as punishment. The duo sat in the youth team for nearly two months as manager Luciano Spalletti refused to give in to their demands.
But not all was right with Hulk. Having started well for his new club, Hulk began to disagree with Spalletti as well and in particular his tactics and team selection policies. Hulk declared that he was seeking to leave the club in January which has put a lot of clubs on alert as they see Hulk as the perfect answer to their striking problems. However FIFA regulations bar players from playing for more than two clubs in a season, which means that Hulk may not be able to play for another club (having played for Porto and Zenit so far this season) and forcing the Brazilian to stay in Russia at least until June 2013. Clubs may still invest in Hulk in January and have him spend the next 5 months in the reserves, in an attempt to avoid a battle for his signature in the summer.
As the race hots up for Falcao, clubs across Europe may start to pull out and divert their attention to the troubled Brazilian instead. Likely to be sold at asking price, Hulk will be too expensive for the likes of Newcastle and Liverpool but Europe’s high rollers like Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid and PSG may just find the cash to end the Brazilians short stay in Russia.