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,&rd