Perhaps the one thing worse than watching your clubs best player getting sold, is watching them getting sold to a rival. If you want confirmation of this, the best people to ask are probably Arsenal fans, who are having to endure seeing Robin van Persie rattling in the goals for Manchester United this season.
As such there are occasions when clubs decide to sell their player abroad, perhaps for less money than what they could get from a divisional rival. Tottenham Hotspur reportedly chose this route in the summer, selling Luka Modric to Real Madrid for several million less than what was allegedly offered by Chelsea.
With this in mind, Chelsea’s pursuit of Radamel Falcao might have received an unexpected boost this week by the reports that Real Madrid are also interested in signing the player. Whilst on paper this looks a disaster, as Madrid can rival Chelsea’s finances and are a team that Falcao has expressed an interest in joining in the past, it may help them as Atletico would hate to see their star leave for their neighbours.
Not only are they local rivals, Atletico’s impressive season in La Liga has put them on a more equal footing in football terms as well. Selling Falcao to Real Madrid would be the clearest indication of their inferiority they could give at a time when they’re giving their best performance in the league for years.
Moreover, Atletico have shown in the past they would rather sell their prized assets to England than Real, letting Sergio Aguero leave for Manchester City in the face of Real Madrid’s attempts to sign him.
None of this will mean they are going to let Falcao go cheap, or perhaps even at all in January, but it does give Chelsea a bargaining chip in a situation where they previously had none. With few clubs able or willing to finance a deal for Falcao, if Chelsea drop out of the race, Atletico could end up having to sell the striker to Real Madrid in the summer in order to balance their finances, and that might be something Roman Abramovich and Rafa Benitez remind them of in January.