With Falcao out, is Adrian Ramos a Colombian contender?

Adrian Ramos celebrated his 28th birthday on Wednesday and the Colombian received a most unexpected present. This isn’t to suggest that he was whooping with schadenfreudic joy as fellow countryman Falcao was carried off on a stretcher in Lyon. After all, Ramos has admitted in the past that he’s very shy but his mind might have wandered and wondered that maybe, just maybe, the injury to Falcao could give him a chance to play in the World Cup.

In prior seasons, to utter Adrian Ramos in the same breath as Falcao when comparing Colombian strikers, as many do in their spare time, would have been foolish. Now, it doesn’t seem daft to suggest that on current form Ramos would be an able replacement for Falcao.

Since roaring out of the traps for the Monegasques with seven goals in as many games, the man nicknamed “the Tiger” has just not been as ferocious in the red and white of Monaco as he was in the red and white of Atletico Madrid. Not since being surprisingly substituted against Nantes in late November anyway. Perhaps that was the moment when the first tranquilizer dart entered “El Tigre”.

Against opponents from the fourth division, a second and more deadly one was delivered by Monts d’or Azergues’ Soner Ertek on Wednesday evening. That description somewhat demonises the challenge that caused the injury to the €60 million man. Especially, in the context of French tackling this season (looking at you Nathan Sinkala), it wasn’t that bad a challenge.  Still, Ertek damaged Falcao’s anterior cruciate ligaments and seemingly dented Colombia’s World Cup ambitions in the process but shed no tear – Hertha BSC’s Adrian Ramos is here.

If Falcao is the Tiger, then Ramos’ is the Cheetah. He’s a quicker, more agile specimen who has proven over the last six months to be just as deadly from close range. Heading into the Rückrunde, there Adrian Ramos sits at the top of the Bundesliga’s scoring charts on 11 goals.

Granted – that this total matches his previous best for an entire season in Germany highlights why the much revered Falcao has been far ahead. Yet during the current campaign, Ramos has shown why he needs to be considered by Colombia coach José Pekerman as his possible replacement for Brazil.

His performances this season led to club coach Jos Luhukay calling him a complete striker – a description you’d more readily associate with Falcao. But as this chess-inspired excerpt from Colombian newspaper El Tiempo hints, Ramos has earned the complete tag in the last few months.

“With the speed of a rook, the ability of a bishop, the certainty of a queen and the humility of a pawn, Adrian Ramos has become a key piece in the tactical board of Hertha Berlin,” writes Andrés Felipe Viveros.

The stats back up the suggested limitless nature to his play. Take how he’s scored the opening goal on five occasions this season, a record matched by no other player in the Bundesliga. Add to that the variety of his goals – two with the right, three with the left, another three with the head and two more from the penalty spot.

Of course, to attain this, the stereotypical traits of a goalscorer have been present in Ramos’ play, whether it’s the heightened anticipation or the cool finishing when the ball does arrive. Netting the winner at Borussia Dortmund in December was a good one for the CV, but not quite as ballsy as daring to score the opener at Bayern Munich back in October. He’s even found the time to notch three assists in the campaign so far.

So praise be to Ramos, yes but shower a fair amount on coach Jos Luhukay too. Fresh from miracle working in Augsburg, Luhukay’s enabled Hertha to bounce back from Bundesliga relegation in style and in turn, breathe new life into Adrian Ramos’ career in Germany – which was needed given what went before.

The value of his goals in his four previous seasons varied – 10 in a Bundesliga season is reasonable but not if you’re relegated as Hertha were in his opening campaign. The 15 which followed in the second division showed promise but then came another relegation campaign in the Bundesliga with Hertha and a measly six goal tally to boot. Last season saw Ramos hit double figures in the 2. Bundesliga, 11 to be precise. Hitting that same total in half a season in the Bundesliga is testament to the guy’s character.

It’s ultimately futile to make any long term comparison with Falcao, given that in the aforementioned timeframe Ramos hasn’t even reached half of his fellow countryman’s total of 83 league goals for Atletico Madrid and Porto. That he measures up to him this season is testament to an immense improvement from Ramos (but also a drop in standards by Falcao). Yet assuming there is no miraculous recovery, Falcao will not play in Brazil, thereby opening the door for another in the Colombian striking queue.

The problem for Ramos is that under José Pekerman, he hasn’t had a look in. That though just hasn’t been the coach’s problem given Ramos’ form before this season and the fact he had a guy called Falcao at his disposal. Since Pekerman became coach in January 2012, Ramos has not added to his total of 22 caps, though he has received call ups to squads – just not recently.

In the pecking order, Ramos finds himself behind Teófilo Gutiérrez, Jackson Martinez, Carlos Bacca, Luis Muriel, Dorlan Pabón and Darwin Quintero according to El Tiempo. The Hertha striker only appears under a section labelled “other options”. Doing so well in the Bundesliga should count in Ramos’ favour but given that the likes of Gutiérrez have performed so well for Colombia in qualifying doesn’t help Ramos’ chances.

Unless there is a large spate of injuries, Ramos is going to have to keep up his Hinrunde form in 2014 to just have a chance of making the squad. It will be interesting to see how Bundesliga teams try and shackle him in the second half of the season and indeed how Ramos copes. If he is to make it to Brazil, breaking the 20 goal mark looks imperative but even then, the competition for places might mean he’d still miss out. To those outside of Colombia, turning down Adrian Ramos in his current form looks a bold decision but don’t be surprised if the unspectacular record from his previous four years in Germany comes back to haunt him.

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Archie is a freelance sports reporter and producer with a strong interest in all things Bundesliga. You can follow him @archiert1

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