Radamel Falcao stayed on the field longer than any of his AS Monaco teammates after Monday’s practice, and then laid down in an ice bath in the middle of a rainstorm.
As the Colombian striker cooled off, fans and media encircled his tent on FIU’s pitch, getting drenched for a chance to take pictures with or talk to the 28-year-old.
Heading into Wednesday’s match against Atletico Nacional at Marlins Park, Falcao was not expected to be the event’s main attraction. Well, for a time he was, and then he was not, and now he is again. It’s complicated.
Fellow Colombian James Rodriguez recently stole the AS Monaco spotlight after entering the year as a relative unknown by leading the 2014 World Cup with six goals.
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Falcao, who missed the tournament with a knee injury, described his country’s run to the quarterfinals as “very beautiful.”
But the same international success that pushed Rodriguez’s fame to new levels also led to his absence in Miami. The 22-year-old Rodriguez is expected to sign with soccer power Real Madrid and did not travel with his team.
Kids from a local Boys & Girls Club chapter chanted Rodriguez’ first name for local television crews before the club arrived, unaware that he would not be coming. But the crowd quickly transitioned its focus to Falcao, considered a top-10 striker in the world before his injury, and the Colombia jerseys a couple fans wore were still applicable.
During drills and scrimmages, the striker stood out thanks to his long hair and technical prowess. His mismatched cleats — one teal and one fuchsia — helped, too. Falcao turned to give a thumbs up to the crowd multiple times during the 90-minute workout.
After leaving the field, Falcao traveled with his team to downtown Miami, where Miami mayor Tomas Regalado presented the player with a key to the city.
“We know that ‘El Tigre’ Falcao has the heart of Miami but we want to make this official,” Regalado said. In response, Falcao thanked the mayor and said, “I love this city. It’s always taken me in and treated me very well.”
Falcao then took questions from the crowd of Spanish-media reporters.
Asked about his health, Falcao said he is in the final stretch of recovering from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in January. He added that he wants to come back when he is 100 percent, and did not declare whether or not he would play Wednesday. He missed last week’s game against Atletico Junior in his home country.
As for the Rodriguez news, Falcao said “Yes, I learned about James traveling to Madrid, but I’m in the same situation as you; I know as much as you know,” he said. “Until now James still belongs to our team.”
Falcao’s own future with AS Monaco has been in doubt this summer as well. He, too, was discussed as a potential target of Real Madrid, which could add the star striker alongside Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo. But Falcao has denied discussing the possibility in the past, and said he was excited about Monaco’s upcoming season.
“I have four more years on contract with the institution of Monaco,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the next season, playing in the Champions League and we hope to be forerunners in the French league.”
Falcao also weighed in on David Beckham’s current efforts to bring a Major League Soccer team to Miami.
“I think Miami has an enormous potential to have a soccer team,” he said. “This initiative that David Beckham is taking is one that everyone should support because this city is so deserving of its own soccer team just because of the great amount of people who are so deeply passionate about soccer.”