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Falcao: Soccer's 'Tiger' prowls for goals

updated 12:47 PM EST, Mon January 28, 2013
Nicknamed "El Tigre" as a boy by his friends, Radamel Falcao has torn apart defenses all over the world. Atletico paid out $53 million to take him to Spain from Porto in 2011 and he more than repaid that fee, firing 36 goals in his first season and leading the club to the victory in the Europa League. Nicknamed "El Tigre" as a boy by his friends, Radamel Falcao has torn apart defenses all over the world. Atletico paid out $53 million to take him to Spain from Porto in 2011 and he more than repaid that fee, firing 36 goals in his first season and leading the club to the victory in the Europa League.
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The Tiger
Deadly duo
Star man
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Radamel Falcao, known as "El Tigre," is one of the world's most lethal strikers
  • Colombian fired Spanish club Atletico Madrid to Europa League glory last season
  • The 26-year-old, a pro since age 13, is the son of a former professional footballer
  • Falcao scored 36 goals last year and has 18 in La Liga so far this season

(CNN) -- The tiger is one of wildlife's most endangered species, but there's one big cat which refuses to be tamed.

Meet Radamel Falcao -- or "El Tigre" as his friends nicknamed him after watching him terrorize defenders on the streets of Colombia as a child.

From making his professional debut at just 13 to running top-class defenders ragged, this is one Tiger who hasn't changed his stripes since bursting onto the scene in Europe with Porto and Atletico Madrid.

"I think that every person specializes in what they know best and as a young kid, I liked scoring goals," he told CNN.

"Later, I realized that's what I was best at and I went perfecting that aspect to give the best of myself to my team in the position I played, which was striker."

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Lionel Messi and Radamel Falcao have both set La Liga alight this season with a number of stunning strikes. Messi had scored 88 goals in 2012 going into the clash, while Falcao had netted 16 times in the league this season ahead of the game at Camp Nou. Lionel Messi and Radamel Falcao have both set La Liga alight this season with a number of stunning strikes. Messi had scored 88 goals in 2012 going into the clash, while Falcao had netted 16 times in the league this season ahead of the game at Camp Nou.
Goal machines
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Messi vs. Falcao Messi vs. Falcao

Constantly on the prowl for goals, the 26-year-old is one of football's most wanted transfer targets, with several top European clubs waiting to poach him from Atletico.

He moved to Spain in a €40 million ($53 million) deal from Porto in 2011, and scored 36 goals in his debut season in La Liga including two in the Europa League final against Athletic Bilbao.

His stunning hat-trick in the demolition of European champions Chelsea at the 2012 Super Cup Final underlined to those not au fait with Spanish football just how deadly he can be.

Atletico thrash Chelsea in Super Cup

Falcao then went on a streak which saw him score in 11 consecutive games for club and country between August and late October.

With 18 goals in La Liga this season, the vultures are circling the Vicente Calderon once again, with Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City all hovering.

But Falcao insists he is happy with life at Atletico and says he has no thoughts of moving on -- at least not yet.

"I have three years left on my contract with the club and my reality is that this contract ties me down for a few more seasons," Falcao said.

"Afterwards though, I don't know what's going to happen in the future as it's in the hands of the people responsible for deciding the future of the players on Atletico.

"I simply give the best of myself for the team, for this really good season that we're having. We have a lot of objectives/goals in our sight and I hope that we can achieve them."

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Falcao has emerged as one of the world's top goalscorers since making the move to Porto from Argentina's River Plate in July 2009.

It was in Portugal that he came to prominence, scoring 34 goals including the winner in the final of the 2011 Europa League to help the club pull off a quadruple haul of trophies.

His goalscoring feats in the continent's second-tier competition, in which he scored a record 17 goals, earned him a move to Spain where he has led the line for Atletico with his predatory instincts causing havoc for defenses across Europe.

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It is a skill which he honed as a youngster, spending many hours on the practice fields in a bid to perfect the art of one of football's hardest arts -- scoring goals.

Ever since he ran around the streets barefoot, covered with scratches and blood, Falcao's desire has been to reach the very top.

His father played club football in Colombia, and there was never a doubt in Falcao's mind what he wanted to achieve in life.

Incredibly, he made his professional debut for Deportivo Pereira at the age of just 13, making him the youngest player to ever appear professionally in Colombian football.

At the age of 14 he moved to Argentina to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer. It was there that he flourished, establishing himself as one of the most exciting players at River Plate.

After overcoming a serious knee injury in 2006, he returned to lead River Plate to the Clausura title and earn a move to Europe with Porto.

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It was the realization of a dream for a player which had begun life with one simple dream -- to become one of the best striker's on the planet.

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"Thanks to lots of training and hard work, I was able to succeed and be able to shine above other players of my age," Falcao said.

"This is work that took a long time, many years in terms of knowing the position, the development of my abilities and also the talent and potential that I was born with.

"Through lots of training, I went along perfecting it, along with knowing the team that I play with, both Atletico Madrid and my national team, which allowed my good development as a striker."

While league and cup success with Atletico remains his priority, the opportunity to lead Colombia into battle at the 2014 World Cup is high up on the agenda.

Falcao on fire as Atletico Madrid win Europa League

Colombia has not appeared at the World Cup finals since 1998, but is third in the South American qualifying section. The top four of the nine competing nations will automatically qualify for Brazil, while the fifth-placed team goes into a playoff against an Asia confederation side.

Falcao who has scored five goals in six qualifying games, wants the latest generation of Colombian talent to write their own records and emerge from the shadow of former great players such as Carlos Valderrama and Faustino Asprilla.

"We're forming quite a strong team and hopefully we can manage to qualify for the World Cup and for the next few World Cups and bring lots of other triumphs and victories home," he said.

"I don't like comparisons too much -- we simply want to write our own history and hope that it's important for our country."

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