Practice makes perfect for Falcone Published on: 27-10-2015

Amid Valletta’s unstinting efforts to overhaul their squad last summer, the arrival of Argentine striker Federico Falcone inā€ˆAugust almost slipped under the radar.

Coach Paul Zammit was adamant that the team needed an out-and-out striker, a no.9, to complement the likes of Jhonnattann, Njongo Priso and Abdelkarim Nafti, who can all play wide.

At the time, the signing of a 25-year-old striker who had never played outside South America was seen as a gamble but Falcone’s outstanding goal in last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Qormi went some way towards vindicating Zammit’s faith.

Nine games into the season, it’s still early to pass judgment on Falcone’s impact, moreso as the Argentine joined Valletta just before the start of the championship, but the omens are very encouraging.

Falcone had already scored four goals, including an audacious first-time lob in the 2-1 victory over Birkirkara, before Saturday but his amazing strike against Qormi made him the talk of the nation.

The game was 11 minutes old when Romeu Romao strode forward on the right flank before aiming a cross towards Falcone on the edge of the box. Adjusting his body, Falcone bent backwards as he leapt into the air to unleash a volley that soared into the top corner.

It was a perfect goal that had all those present at the Tedesco Stadium purring in admiration.

“When I was younger, I spent a lot of time practising overhead kicks together with my brother,” Falcone told Times of Malta with the assistance of Argentine team-mate Juan Cruz Gill who kindly agreed to act as translator.

“We repeated the routine several times, going up in the air with our back to goal as my father and grandfather hurled balls in our direction.

“I scored a couple of similar goals in youth football, which can be viewed on youtube, but Saturday’s acrobatic strike was my first in senior football.

“It is the best goal of my career so far, an important one as well as it helped Valletta to win the game.

“It was a good weekend as the results of the other games enabled us to stay on top.”

Falcone’s talent was nurtured at Newell’s Old Boys, the club where Lionel Messi first came to prominence as a little wonderkid before being snapped up by Barcelona.

“My first club was Newell’s Old Boys as I’m from Rosario,” Falcone reminisced.

“I was only five when I joined the youth academy at Newell’s Old Boys. I made my first-team debut aged 18 but after four years, I joined La Serena in Chile.

“I left Argentina because I wanted regular first-team football.

“I played for four clubs in Chile. During my spell with Huachipato, I played in the Libertadores Cup and our opponents were Brazilian clubs Gremio and Fluminense and Caracas from Venezuela.”

Falcone, who scored two goals in the group stages of the 2013 Libertadores Cup, South America’s equivalent of the Champions League, admitted that he knew very little about Maltese football when he first heard of Valletta’s approach but decided to take up the challenge after speaking to Cruz Gill.

“Federico and I are represented by the same agent,” Cruz Gill said.

“When the coach (Zammit) asked me about Falcone’s qualities, I told him what I thought. He wanted to know whether Falcone can help the team and I said ‘yes, definitely’.”

“I didn’t know much about Maltese football,” Falcone added.

“When I was offered the opportunity to join Valletta, I got in touch with Juan and he told me good things about Malta and the club.

“As I’ve always wanted to move to Europe, I decided to accept Valletta’s offer.”

Setting off on a new adventure in a foreign country for the first time in his life represented a massive step for Falcone. His late arrival presented another challenge as Falcone effectively missed pre-season but Zammit refrained from rushing him into action… his cautious approach is paying off.

“I joined the club quite late (in the transfer window),” Falcone said.

“I missed pre-season but I didn’t find it hard to settle because Juan helped me a lot, translating the coach’s instructions.

“I knew exactly what the coach wanted from me and the good thing was that he brought me into the team gradually. In the first two league games, I came on as a late substitute and then I started the third game against Birkirkara.

“Now I’m feeling a lot better.

“I feel comfortable here and Juan’s wife is helping my wife to settle which is very important.”

Falcone has been positively impressed with the level of the BOV Premier League.

“The standard of the Maltese league has surprised me in a positive way,” he observed.

“There are a lot of good teams and good players. I can sense that the league here is growing.”

For the first time in many years, Valletta began the season without the usual hype surrounding their title prospects as champions Hibernians and Birkirkara, along with Balzan, were regarded as the leading candidates to win the league.

Zammit has been careful not to talk up his team’s expectations after rebuilding his squad in the summer but Valletta’s position at the top of the league, one point ahead of Balzan, has strengthened the belief that they can spring a surprise.

Falcone has no doubt that Valletta have what it takes to challenge for the championship.

“We can do that, we can challenge,” he said.

“It’s very difficult because there are some strong teams in the championship but we have faith in our capabilities.

“We need to keep working hard because it’s a long and hard road.

“There are no easy games as the teams are very close to each other. Look at Qormi, they are in the bottom part of the table but they really played well against us. They are better than their position suggests.”
Title ambition

Valletta’s hopes would grow if Falcone keeps banging in the goals and that is what he intends to do.

“I can give more,” Falcone said.

“I want to score more goals to help the team. My aim is to win the league with Valletta and qualify for the Champions League.

“On a personal level, if I finish the season as top scorer of the Premier League that would be perfect.”

While Falcone is eager to make his mark for Valletta, he also harbours hopes of earning a move to a top footballing country like Italy in the future.

“I want to do well here but my dream is to move to Italy in the future,” Falcone said.

“I wish to reach the highest level possible as I want to improve as a professional player.”

Source - Times of Malta