French Connection: Radamel Falcao leading Monaco’s fight for survival

It has been no secret that Thierry Henry has had a difficult start to life in the Monaco dugout, but Colombia international striker Radamel Falcao has provided the Stade Louis II side with hope of dragging themselves away from the foot of the standings of late.

At 32, the striker has been granted an immense amount of responsibility this season. His burden has only increased by the club’s lack of form and the plethora of youngsters thrust in around him due to an incredible injury crisis that shows little sign of abating.

Having taken to the front line of Monaco’s push for redemption after, at one point, tumbling to 19th in Le Championnat, Falcao has been forced to take his share of criticism this season, notably after missing a penalty against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

For Henry, though, the South American remains a precious talisman, an ace in his pack when all else fails.

Falcao Monaco Amiens

Priceless recent wins over Caen and Amiens have both been achieved largely thanks to ‘El Tigre’. Neither was a spectacular team performance from the principality side, yet the individual quality and cool head of their striker has allowed them to garner six points at the homes of two direct rivals for the drop.

Monaco’s first win of the Henry era came in Normandy, where a picture-perfect free-kick from Falcao was the difference between the sides.

Little wonder then, the coach was so keen to defend him in the aftermath of the Atletico penalty miss.

“He gave us the win in Caen, I remember that. Do you remember it?” he snapped at a journalist when questioned over the forward’s form.

“He was the one who took the ball, who took responsibility and scored. He’s doing just fine.”

As if to better emphasise the coach’s point, Falcao was again decisive on Tuesday in Amiens. Again his team struggled to create chances but again the captain came up with the goods, netting a couple of penalties to drag his team out of the relegation zone for the first time since September 21.

Given his miss a week earlier in Spain, when he admitted he had “the opportunity to change the game” at his feet, it showed a formidable degree of mental fortitude.

Indeed, the course of Monaco’s whole season might just have been on his shoulders at Stade de la Licorne, where defeat would have plunged them back into crisis.

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Yet the forward has long been used to taking responsibility for matters in the principality, where he has shone since signing from Atletico Madrid in 2013, despite two difficult seasons on loan in the Premier League with Manchester United and Chelsea respectively.

He has scored 55 goals in 88 Ligue 1 outings and played a pivotal role as Monaco won the title in 2016-17 and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League that same season.

That is, of course, beyond them now, but Falcao’s quality still remains appreciated around Europe, with Real Madrid still linked with a potential January swoop.

For his part, the player appears content to remain and spearhead the Henry revolution.

“Come back and ask me about Real Madrid when my contract ends, then we’ll see what happens,” he said last month when questioned about a potential switch back to the Spanish capital, where he enjoyed stellar success in the red and white stripes of Atleti.

Henry, therefore, can expect to have another 18 months of the forward, whose deal expires in 2020 – and given the decisive quality he has provided for the team of late, that can only be music to the rookie coach’s ears.