MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 26: Falcao of Atletico Madrid celebrates after scoring his team's opening goal during the La Liga match between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona at Vicente Calderon Stadium on February 26, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
There is a lot of noise floating around lately about the possibility of Atletico Madrid's Radamel Falcao joining Chelsea this summer. From the team's perspective, it makes a whole boatload of sense. The Blues have had... uh... lacklustre play from their centre forwards this season, and they're likely to lose their most effective performer in Didier Drogba (damning with faint praise here) this summer. An upgrade there would be pretty super, and Falcao's one of the best centre forwards in Europe.
There are other reasons to like Falcao as well. He shone under Andre Villas-Boas's tutalage during Porto's amazing 2010/11 season, so assuming that the manager stays on this summer - a fairly safe bet, in my opinion - I'm sure he'd like to have a staunch ally as a star player. The Colombian's shown the ability to adapt to different systems and different coaches as well, which is important when you consider the different attacking options that a retooled Chelsea should be able to deploy next season. The only knocks against him are his price tag and age - at 26 he's at the point where expecting two contracts out of him would be naive, and Atletico did just pay €40M for him last summer. He wouldn't come cheap.
Of course, cash for Falcao isn't exactly what Chelsea are proposing, if you take the rumours seriously. Instead, they're apparently hoping to dangle former Atletico captain Fernando Torres in front of his old team to sweeten the pot. A Fernando Torres plus, say, £20M cash for Falcao deal would go a long way towards mitigating the awful mistake made last January.
Of course, swapping Falcao for Torres makes virtually no sense from Atletico's perspective, because Falcao is an elite striker and Torres is kind of not. Atletico did something similar last summer when they sold Sergio Aguero to Manchester City and immediately bought Falcao with all of that shiny money, but that was switching out a great player for another great player. This proposed deal would be nothing of the sort, especially for a club that looks like it has a reasonable chance of making the Champions League next year.
Chelsea do have some leverage, though. Torres is still pretty popular back in Spain, and even though a move might not make footballing sense it's likely to make the more inattentive fans very happy. A better bargaining chip than Torres, however, is the continued presence of starting goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois at the Vicente Calderon. Atletico are unlikely to be able to replace Courtois at short notice - he's been on of La Liga's top three goalkeepers - and if Chelsea offer him up for another year or so that could really push Atletico into making a silly deal.
Could this happen? Yes. Falcao coming to Chelsea as a swap for Torres, a Courtois loan extension and cash is an entirely plausible rumour. If it's not to much cash, it might even be an excellent deal for the Blues. I'm loathe to pay superstar money to 26-year-olds, but if you consider the transfer fee paid for Torres a year ago as a completely sunk cost (which you probably should), Falcao wouldn't even be that expensive.