The very method that allowed Chelsea to secure a place in the Monaco showpiece deserted them spectacularly during it. Last Spring, a steady reliance on stoic defensive brilliance had led to the realisation of a European dream; but in the consequential UEFA Super Cup showdown, however, no defence was even evident. A fresh and hungry Atletico Madrid side had put Chelsea to the sword with exuberant pace, magnificent sharpness and sensational imagination. For Diego Simeone's team, however, one man shone brighter than any other. Radamel Falcao. A player truly incomparable in the game today, Falcao harbours insatiable movement perpetual and mesmeric of description; an inexorable desire to instigate attacking chaos and, above all else, a deadly instinct in front of goal. By far, he is the best of a dying breed.
That breed is what we may call the "out-and-out" striker. Modern tactical thought oftentimes calls for a small and sophisticated link man as the fulcrum of a silky passing machine. Ancient tactical thought still compels certain managers to employ an imposing centre forward as a means of long-ball carnage. Falcao, however, is a paragon of forward play; uniting the nimble touch and auspicious vision of a floating striker with the ruthless physicality and clinical finishing of a talismanic forward. Undoubtedly, he is the best in the world at what he does.
Sure, there are better forwards. Lionel Messi, the greatest player ever to lace up a pair of boots, weaves and intertwines his magnificence from a nomadic position on the field, distinctly not as a true centre forward. Cristiano Ronaldo, too, is a magician from a wide left berth. But Falcao is different; leading the line with Messi-eque excitement and a clinical potential so synonymous with Ronaldo. That is not to say that Radamel Falcao exceeds as a footballer the potential nor talent of either Messi or Ronaldo, but it is to say that, as a legitimate line-leading, goal-scoring, play-linking talisman, he is the best of a dying bread.
Chelsea could not live with him. Somehow in times gone by, Di Matteo had conjured a plan to deal with Cavani, another to deal with Cardozo, yet still another plan to nullify Messi and again to restrict Gomez. But time and again the elusive Colombian evaded their attention to fire his club to yet more European glory. It speaks volumes of the talent of such a player that, against Europe's most debated and discussed defence, he produced a unique left-footed, first-half hat-trick, a second in five days.
For Falcao, his first goal was simple. A winding, curved run, the like of which he could make whilst sleeping, was matched by an exquisite midfield pass, leaving only a delicately lofted finish beyond Petr Cech and beautifully into the bottom corner of the sagging net. Only a player of such unique and multifarious talent could produce with precocious ease a strike of unabashed beauty and poignancy.
But his second goal was even better, as if like a microcosm of an illustrious career that continues to improve and improve some more on the already sublime. Movement beyond the kin of Gary Cahill and David Luiz liberated the hotshot forward into a delightful position on which to capitalise on a mistake that he knew would arrive. It was not a coincidence that it did arrive, for players at this level create their own luck. A trademark moment of contemplation and reflection preceded Falcao's stunning finish, crafted and teased around Cech and inside the far post for a poetic goal. Only Falcao.
Before half-time, Chelsea were resigned to defeat, resigned to the majesty and supremacy of a dazzling Colombian at the top of his game. A scintillating counter-attack from Atletico seemed strange for it had not featured Falcao in its build up. He was there at the end however, as always present in a bubble of space created by his own wizardry, awaiting ammunition. A Touran pass unfurled play Falcao's way, before he rasped a low drive underneath the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. Hat-trick. Again.
This Monaco tale was a familiar one for Falcao. He has scored six goals in three European finals, adding depth and shine to an awesome continental CV. Eventually, this unstoppable "out-and-out" striker will receive a chance to score his goals, please his fans and carry his team on the biggest stage of them all. A bucket full of Europa League and Super Cup goals should rightfully lead to an opportunity to star at the very centre of UEFA's most prestigious tournament. More than any current player, he will deserve it. Radamel Falcao, the last great centre forward, will not be far away from Champions League glory soon.