With 27 goals from 27 games there is no doubting that Falcao, the Club Atlético de Madrid forward, has a thing for the UEFA Europa League.
The Colombian, a winner with FC Porto last year, took his return in the competition to 27 goals with a double strike in Atlético's 4-2 semi-final first-leg victory against Valencia CF last week, leaving him just 90 minutes away from a second successive final appearance. In the process he moved up to third in the list of all-time scorers in the UEFA Europa League and its predecessor, the UEFA Cup – standing just four behind the top-ranked Henrik Larsson.
In total 19 players have scored 20 goals or more in the competition and Falcao's remarkable goals-per-game ratio is bettered by only one other name among this number – Jupp Heynckes, now coach of FC Bayern München. He hit 23 goals in 21 outings in the UEFA Cup for VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach, including a final hat-trick when Mönchengladbach defeated FC Twente in 1975.
UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League top five scorers (qualifying not included):
Henrik Larsson (31 goals in 45 games)
Feyenoord, Celtic FC, Helsingborgs IF
For Larsson, the UEFA Cup brings back memories of pain and glory. Playing for Celtic, the Swede suffered a horrendous double leg-break against Olympique Lyonnais in October 1999. Back from that career-threatening injury, he led the Glasgow club to the 2003 final against Porto. Two Larsson goals on an unforgettable night in Seville took his seasonal tally to 12 in 12 matches, but his only prize was Man of the Match along with a runners-up medal after Porto won 3-2. Even in the twilight of his career with hometown club Helsingborg, he got six goals in eight appearances in 2007/08.
Dieter Müller (29 goals in 36 games)
1. FC Köln, VfB Stuttgart, FC Girondins de Bordeaux
Müller is the only player to have scored six goals in a Bundesliga game and he was prolific in the UEFA Cup too. The pity for Müller is he never got to play in the final, falling at the semi-final stage twice with Köln – against Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1975 and Ipswich Town FC in 1981. Yet he still enjoyed some famous nights, notching a hat-trick in a quarter-final win against AFC Ajax in 1975 and, six years later, hitting four in the first round against ÍA Akranes and scoring in a famous 4-0 triumph at FC Barcelona in the second round.
Falcao (27 goals in 27 games)
FC Porto, Club Atlético de Madrid
The Colombian has not been short of goals in domestic competition over the past two seasons but there is something about Europe that brings out his very best. He registered a season record of 17 in 14 outings last term, including the first 'poker' (four-goal haul) of his career, as Porto won the trophy. If he will struggle to match that this term, he is still in double figures again and two games away from lifting the trophy again with Atlético.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (26 goals in 36 games)
sc Heerenveen, AFC Ajax, FC Schalke 04
If qualifying goals counted then 'The Hunter' would be on 30 having hit four in Schalke's home play-off defeat of HJK Helsinki last August. As it stands, he has 26 to his name after posting ten with Schalke en route to the quarter-finals this term, including hat-tricks in successive home victories over FC Viktoria Plzeň and Twente. "This is my best season ever," said the 28-year-old who had previously struck five goals for Heerenveen and 11 for Ajax. The bad news for defenders is that there is more to come. "The older I get, the stronger and better I get. I still have one or two years before I reach my peak."
Alessandro Altobelli (25 goals in 57 games)
FC Internazionale Milano, Juventus
A central presence in Inter's attack for more than a decade, Altobelli had his best UEFA Cup campaign in 1985/86 when he scored six times in ten games, including a hat-trick against LASK Linz, to help the Nerazzurri reach the semi-finals where they lost to Real Madrid CF. Nicknamed 'Spillo' (pin) for his lanky frame, the FIFA World Cup winner was an unpredictable figure on the pitch but knew his way to goal and in his only season with Juventus enhanced his UEFA Cup record with four more goals.
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