There was once a player for Cóndor de Bogotá in Colombia’s second division who liked to dance whenever he found the back of the net. “The Cha-Cha-Cha was in fashion at the time and I celebrated my goals to this rhythm,” he told Maisfutebol. It would become his trademark, so much so that supporters at the Estadio Alfonso López Pumarejo nicknamed him Cha-Cha-Cha.
That player was Orlando Martínez. When his son Jackson followed in his footsteps and made it as a professional footballer, a number of things were passed down from one generation to another. “He got the goals and the nickname,” wrote Pedro Jorge da Cunha. Unlike his father, however, Jackson also got a move to Europe. And there the beat goes on.
Six goals in his first nine games for Porto indicate that finding his groove on the other side of the Atlantic hasn’t posed much of a problem. Jackson has instead helped resolve a rather difficult one for his new club side.
When Radamel Falcao was sold to Atlético Madrid for €40m in 2011, Porto had a hard time replacing him. That was to be expected of course. Falcao had scored 41 goals in 51 games for the club and was a member of the Porto side that went unbeaten in his final season at the Dragão, winning the Primeira Liga, the Taça de Portugal, the Portuguese Super Cup and the Europa League under André Villas-Boas.
True, Hulk was still around and lived up to his superhero moniker by punching hole after hole in defences from his position on the wing, hitting shots so hard that they seemed like wrecking balls to opposing goalkeepers. But even so Porto still lacked a convincing man in the middle.
After scoring five in five in pre-season, Kléber started well, notching three in his first seven competitive matches for the club and earned a call-up to the Brazil squad. That, however, was pretty much it and during the winter Porto felt duly compelled to bring in the prolific but limited Marc Janko from FC Twente. He failed to make an impression and was defenestrated when the window opened again in the summer.
To find a replacement for the player known as El Tigre, Porto went to the Jaguares of Chiapas, Mexico. There they found Falcao’s Colombian compatriot and his teammate at international level Jackson Cha-Cha-Cha. He received “the highest recommendations about [Porto], the city and the club” from the player whose No.9 shirt he’d inherit and described his €8.8m transfer as “the opportunity I have been waiting for, which I consider a huge blessing.”
Reacting to the news former Colombia coach Leonel Álvarez told O Jogo: “I believe Jackson will score as many goals as Falcao did at Porto. Of course it will depend on the players he has around him, but if he has the same conditions as Falcao, I’m certain he’ll enjoy the same amount of success.
“Jackson and Falcao are two players with completely different assets, but in one aspect they are exactly the same – they both score lots of goals.”
While the fee might have been higher than usual—don’t forget that the Mexican league is relatively rich—and Jackson’s age (he was 25 at the time) doesn’t necessarily correlate with the club’s policy of investing in younger talent, this was typical Porto: once again utilizing the 250 scouts they have around the globe to find value in markets unappreciated by their competitors.
“You have to act quickly, take risks and of course not hesitate in going to look at a club in the Japanese second division,” Porto general manager Antero Henrique said, referencing in an explanation of their philosophy how they had found Hulk at Tokyo Verde.
Elaborating further on the club’s transfer strategy, he told France Football: “If for example we were to approach a German player we would have nothing special to offer him, whereas when we talk with a Brazilian he immediately feels that he is going to make a giant step in his career and improve his quality of life.”
The same is true of other South Americans. After years of bringing in Brazilians [whose adaptation is of course easier because of a shared language] Porto have, in addition to buying Argentines and Uruguayans, made a habit out of spending their euros on Colombians. Where there was once Falcao and Fredy Guarín, there are now James Rodríguez, Héctor Quiñones and Jackson on the books.
Casting his eye over Porto’s recruitment strategy, Arsène Wenger, no less, wrote: “When looking to unearth new players, clubs tend to be drawn towards Brazil and its huge pool of talent, but Mexico, Colombia and Uruguay have also produced many players for European teams. Colombians Martínez and Rodríguez are two shining examples.
“The problem was that for a long time these countries failed at a basic level with young players, settling for a ‘wild’ brand of football. Today though, there are academies developing all over the world, as the hunt for the ‘footballer of tomorrow’ reaches far and wide, allowing Porto to reap rewards for their extensive scouting and to remain competitive at the highest level.”
So far, Jackson appears to be yet more testament to it. He has endeared himself in no time at all to the Super Dragões. A stunning hooked scissor kick against Beira Mar was bettered a couple of weeks later by his goal of the season candidate in the classico with Sporting.
Receiving a pass with his back to goal, he controlled the ball with his knee before back-heeling it beyond Sporting `keeper Rui Patricio, all in the same movement. “Jackson’s goal didn’t surprise me,” Porto coach Vitor Pereira said. “He’s a player of talent and does that a lot in training.”
The back-heel has a mythology of its own at Porto. It conjures up memories of Rabah Madjer’s famous equaliser in the 1987 European Cup final with Bayern Munich in Vienna. Then there was Clayton’s away to Denizlispor, and what of Falcao against his future club Atlético and the one in the 5-0 drubbing of Benfica in the 2010 super classico. Jackson is now in their esteemed company.
Dynamo Kyiv’s visit to Porto tonight offers him another chance to score his first Champions League goal. If Jackson finds the net again with a back-heel or any other part of his body, one thing is for certain: the Dragão will dance the Cha-Cha-Cha.