Radamel Falcao's challenge of adapting to life at Man Utd

By Amy LawrenceFootball writer
Radamel Falcao
Colombian striker Radamel Falcao joined Manchester United on transfer deadline day

Such is the predictable correlation between the amount of money a football player costs or earns and public expectation levels, it's safe to assume Radamel Falcao - whose well publicised salary is around £265,000 per week - is not going to get much leeway when he first appears in a Manchester United shirt.

It seems to be a simple equation: incomprehensibly high wages, or a snappily quotable transfer fee, are supposed to come with the guarantee of instant quality.

But should they really?

The human element seldom scratches the surface of the public conscience when analysing the impact of a new player.

During the international break Falcao was parachuted into Manchester, not a part of the world he knows well, for a matter of hours as his sensational loan deal from Monaco was secured.

News report: Radamel Falcao joins Manchester United on loan

While the international language of football might be clear when he gets out onto the training pitches at Carrington, attempting to integrate into a new culture and not having a clue about how to get around unaided throws up all sorts of challenges - even more so when a player has the happiness and security of a young family to consider.

Falcao is married to an Argentine singer - Lorelei Taron - and they have a baby daughter who was born in Monaco. She recently celebrated her first birthday.

An enormous salary is obviously a help when learning to live in a new country, but has limited worth if your family is homesick and feeling isolated by a language barrier.

Hotel living, sometimes for months until you get settled, can drive everyone up the walls. The key for United is to help Falcao and his family feel at home as quickly as possible.

This is the sixth different country he has played in - but the first that is not Latin or Mediterranean.

In theory, the business of settling in should be exponentially easier for Falcao than was the case when English football began casting the net for talent with global abandon.

Ex-Manchester United player and coach Phil Neville:
"It's great that world-class players like Radamel Falcao are coming to the Premier League. We lost Luis Suarez, we lost Gareth Bale and you just thought that maybe the pull of La Liga or the Bundesliga was greater than the Premier League."But I think we've proven now that this probably still is the greatest league in the world and it's great that the best players are coming to England."
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On the opening day of the maiden Premier League season in 1992-93, the number of players from overseas who started for all the clubs combined was 11. Falcao's recent arrival took the number of different nationalities at Old Trafford alone to 11.

Last week, at QPR's training ground as he was gearing up for the final few days of the transfer window, Harry Redknapp was extolling the virtues of his new Chilean signings, Eduardo Vargas and Mauricio Isla. He was amazed to secure two internationals who excelled at the World Cup on loan from Napoli and Juventus respectively.

His expression changed when someone reminded him of a previous venture with players from that part of the world. Not that Javier Margas, a Chilean defender who joined Redknapp's West Ham in 1998, was a worse prospect.

But the experience felt like it came from a different universe. The player was more or less left to his own devices. It was disastrous.

"We put him in a house out in the middle of Essex, gave him a car, but he didn't speak a word of English," recalls Redknapp.

"On the first day he got in the car and we expect him to find the training ground, but he ended up at Stansted Airport. Then, coming up a country lane, he gets a puncture.

"His wife's family own two or three of the biggest hotels in Santiago, she had three or four sisters and they were the closest family you have ever seen. She's in the house all day, doesn't speak English, can't watch television. That's how it was those days.

"There was no-one looking after them. Poor old Margas, that was how it was, and his wife was crying all day. I think I'd have run home."

In actual fact Margas did bolt - he went missing for several weeks and was eventually tracked down back in Chile. He returned to London, and stayed with West Ham for three seasons but never really transferred from the periphery to the heart of it all.

Jesus Navas and Carlos Tevez
Manchester City's Jesus Navas (left) rejected a move to Chelsea in 2006 because he feared he'd be homesick, while striker Carlos Tevez asked to leave City in 2010, saying he was pining for Buenos Aires

Ironically, once he finished playing he appeared in the reality television show Expedicion Robinson, a programme which nodded towards Robinson Crusoe and was based around trying to survive when thrown with no help into an alien environment.

Now, Vargas and Isla have the benefit of two things - a player liaison officer, Paul Roberts, is on hand to offer assistance with any troubles and guide them through the process of learning to live abroad. It is an important behind-the-scenes role at all Premier League clubs.

At QPR, Roberts helps new recruits with all aspects of their welfare, which can range significantly from player to player according to whether they speak English or not and if they are single or have family that need looking after. Some players only need guidance from Roberts for a few days. He will assist others for months.

The other vital aspect is understanding. While QPR obviously want their new recruits to hit the ground running, they realise the complexities their new players may be dealing with away from the training ground environment.

All clubs hope players of high investment will settle quickly, but there is a tacit acceptance that a player joining from overseas can take up to six months to settle in properly.

Cristiano Ronaldo needed some time initially at Old Trafford before he began to sizzle and develop into the phenomenon he is today. In his first couple of seasons in Manchester he scored just a handful of goals each campaign. By his penultimate season at Old Trafford he was prolific, annihilating opponents with the regularity which has become a trademark.

Thierry Henry also evolved over time at Arsenal. It took him a few months of diligent work to transform himself from a winger to a centre-forward with a killer instinct for goals.

When he found his scintillating rhythm he was voted England's Player of the Year three times.

Mario Balotelli and Cesc Fabregas
Italy striker Mario Balotelli and Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas have returned to the Premier League this season citing the fact they missed the atmosphere of English football

If players as exceptional as Henry and Ronaldo needed time to reach the highest notes, that would suggest anyone and everyone deserves some slack initially.

Chelsea can be grateful Diego Costa has found his feet immediately, as Sergio Aguero did from game one at Manchester City when he joined in 2011. Costa, like Aguero, scored on his Premier League debut, and has followed that up with a string of goals.

He gives the impression he was in the zone from the moment he got off the aeroplane. But those are the exceptions, not the rule.

On the other side of the coin is a player like Jose Antonio Reyes, who became Arsenal's record signing in 2004 yet never got over his homesickness and returned to Iberia two and a half years later without ever settling properly.

It certainly helps when a player embraces the new culture he is coming into, as Gianfranco Zola did all those years ago when he stole Chelsea hearts as a stylish purchase from Parma.

Yet the experience of David Ginola, who arrived at Newcastle from Paris Saint-Germain in 1995, shows how the player can be inspired while struggling to reconcile his own excitement with the nervousness of his family.

"On my first day in Newcastle I went for a drive around town with my wife and said, 'This is where we are going to live.' I realised what an enormous step I had taken when my wife started crying in my arms in the car.

Roberto Martinez and Gus Poyet
Everton's Spanish boss Roberto Martinez (left) says he loves the multicultural dressing room in England while Sunderland's Uruguayan manager Gus Poyet joined Chelsea in 1997 and has lived here ever since

"My biggest concern was how my family would cope. It's no problem being a player, because you have your own life with the club, and training and matches to occupy you, mentally and physically, every day. But for the ones who stay at home it is more difficult. I never had time on my hands to feel lost or homesick."

It meant a lot to Ginola at the time that his manager, Kevin Keegan, took him to one side and told him he could return to France when needed to, as he remembered the experience of feeling low at times when he first moved to Hamburg in Germany in his own playing days.

"When you are a foreigner, people are not interested that you need to go home, recharge yourself," Ginola explained. "They pay a lot of money and they want results. Sometimes people forget that footballers are human beings. Keegan never forgot."

The manager greeted him with a sprinkling of French when they met for the first time. Ginola was by himself in the hotel for six weeks until his family joined him from Paris.

At first he was too busy throwing himself into his new challenge to miss his old life, but after a while he longed for a taste of his homeland. If he ever felt unsettled he always tried to remind himself he came for the football.

Keegan's kindness meant a lot to Ginola. They played a game of golf together in the rain (Keegan won on the last hole). "He told me: it's not a problem. I know what you are going through."

At first Ginola lived in a hotel, with Les Ferdinand and Warren Barton for company as they had just moved up from London. The pair would take him out after training and teach him how to love 'Only Fools and Horses' when the video played on the team bus.

Diego Costa and Sergio Aguero
Unlike the majority of foreign stars, Chelsea's Spanish striker Diego Costa (left) and Manchester City's Argentine forward Sergio Aguero have adapted to life in England fairly quickly

There was a camaraderie generated amongst the new players who were based in the hotel together.

It may help Falcao that he has a handful of new team-mates in the same boat. A five star hotel in Manchester is also base camp - for now - to the club's other new signings: Angel di Maria, Daley Blind, Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo.

Falcao will arrive at his new club to begin his latest adventure next week at the end of a whirlwind few days. From Monaco, via a late deadline day move to Old Trafford and a celebratory Chinese meal in the city centre with his advisers and the deal-makers, then a jet to make his return with Colombia for a friendly against Brazil played in Florida.

He will zoom back into Manchester without much time to think ahead of United's Premier League match against QPR this weekend.

Getting used to life on the pitch will probably be easier than off it. But if Falcao is to be given time for everything to fall into place, he needs to be allowed some without that monster wage packet being constantly thrown in his face.