What Does Radamel Falcao Leaving Mean for Atletico Madrid?

Samuel Marsden@@samuelmarsdenFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 25:  Radamel Falcao of Club Atletico de Madrid celebrates after scoring his team's opening goal during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Sevilla FC at Vicente Calderon Stadium on November 25, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

The instinctive answer would be panic.

Radamel Falcao has scored 28 La Liga goals this season; if Atletico Madrid lose their Colombian forward, they lose over 45 percent of their goals.

They lose the man who's scored five in seven against Barcelona and Real Madrid, the man who won them last year's Europa League and the man who has fired them into next season's Champions League.

Losing him is going to hurt. But it doesn't have to hurt for long, not at Atleti.

This is a club with a habit of breeding goal scorers.

From Hugo Sanchez back in the 1980's, their Mexican striker who averaged a goal every other game in an era prior to the feats of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, through to El Tigre this season, who's pretty close to a goal every game.

Sanchez left for Real Madrid, but goals have never left Los Rojiblancos.

In the 1990s, Kiko provided the constant backdrop in the Atleti attack, but if he was not a consistent scorer, his partners certainly were.

Cristian Vieri hit a goal a game during one campaign in the late '90s. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink followed him shortly after, scoring 24 goals in 34 games.

The new millennium brought new strikers.

First there was Fernando Torres, El Niño, who left for Liverpool in 2007. Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan came next, both ended up with better striker rates than Torres for the club.

In 2011, they both left—Aguero joined Manchester City and Forlan went to Inter Milan.

And then there was Falcao.

It's almost seamless.

Through luck or through judgment, Atleti always seem to move one forward, with bags of goals, on and bring in another—one who is often more prolific, too.

What it means money-wise is more confusing.

They're unlikely to see much of the fee from his sale due to his complicated third-party ownership, as outlined in detail here (via reddit.com).

And even with qualification to the Champions League group stages, they're still likely to spend the summer balancing their books.

Clubs in Spain have run up huge debts for too long, now in the economical crisis, it's catching up with them.

It doesn't mean they won't replace their talisman, though. They will. They have to. They'll just do it wisely.

Rayo Vallecano's Leo Baptistao (via AS) and Pizzi (via football-espana), on loan at Deportivo La Coruna from Braga, are likely to join this summer. Both are talented, young players, but neither would be considered natural No. 9s.

Perhaps Diego Costa is ready to take his game one step further and be Falcao's heir, or perhaps there's truth in the David Villa (via Goal.com) or Burak Yilmaz (via ESPNrumors.

Either way, at Atleti, one thing always seems to be true. Next season, somehow, they'll have a goal scorer leading the line.