Home Analysis #12 – Samuel Eto’o

#12 – Samuel Eto’o

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In our countdown of the Top 20 Inter players in the last 20 years, we recognise treble winning forward Samuel Eto’o in 12th spot.

Eto’o will go down in history for being the only player to win trebles in consecutive seasons. This was achieved with Barcelona in 2008/09 and Inter in 2009/10. Incredible statistic considering it was with two different clubs!

Let’s look a bit further into the Inter career of Samuel Eto’o.

That famous transfer!

In the summer of 2009, there were talks of a player exchange between Inter and Barcelona. We would soon find out the deal involved Ibrahimovic and Eto’o swapping teams.

Barcelona were prepared to go all in for Ibrahimovic and soon they did. The final deal costing them €46mil and Eto’o in the process. Inter definitely the winners in this swap as they picked up a lot of money and a world class player in Samuel Eto’o.

Samuel Eto’o famously being quoted in his first Inter interview when a question came about replacing Ibrahimovic – “I’m Samuel Eto’o and I don’t want to compare myself to anyone. I believe the victories I have earned up to now can contribute to giving the right value to my name.”

Immediate impact – 

Mourinho had built basically a brand new football team that season bringing in the likes of Milito, Sneijder, Eto’o, Lucio, Pandev and Thiago Motta.

Eto’o straight away got down to business as he scored in his first Serie A match. Albeit a penalty against Bari, but they all count the same.

From the beginning Eto’o became an integral part of the side. The Cameroonian partnered Diego Milito upfront and the pair had a very successful campaign together.

Eto’o would finish the Serie A season with 12 goals and 7 assists, and also contribute in the Champions League with 2 goals and 2 assists.

The most important goal coming in an away fixture at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea. A 1-0 away win courtesy of Eto’o was enough to send Inter into the quarter finals.

Most memorable moment –

The away Semi-final fixture at the Camp Nou versus Barcelona is hands down my favourite Eto’o memory.

Going into the match, Inter had won the won the first leg 3-1, and just needed a one goal loss or better to progress to the final.

In the 28th minute, Thiago Motta would receive a very controversial red card. This put Inter in park-the-bus mode for the next 60+ minutes. The attack would obviously disappear from Inter being down to 10 men, and just an endless barrage of passes and shots from Barcelona.

If you can imagine one team just clearing the ball every time they touched it, and the other team coming straight back at them with the ball – well that’s what is was like. Luckily, Inter had someone as versatile and quick as Eto’o on their side.

After the red card, Eto’o was pretty much moved to play as a left-back for the remainder of the match. Mourinho completely ditched the striker position, and had Eto’o now being an important part of his defence.

In another life, I’m sure Eto’o was a defender because he did a wonderful job. Barcelona had over 85% of the ball, and Eto’o had limited Messi from really creating anything from out wide.

In the 86th minute, Eto’o was finally subbed off but he had done his job. His legs tired, jersey full of sweat but he had given it all for this black and blue jersey.

One of the greatest ever losses, and less than a month later Samuel Eto’o would be a back to back Champions League winner.

Inter’s biggest mistake?

This saying is thrown out there a bit, but in the case of Eto’o it’s pretty close to the mark. At the time, Inter were still very competitive and had finished 2nd in the 2010/11 season.

There were obvious financial issues, and the club was looking to balance the books. Eto’o had come off a fantastic season in 2010/11 where he scored 21 goals and provided 10 assists in Serie A, and scored 8 goals and provided 5 assists in the Champions League.

A total of 37 goals and 16 assists across 53 matches in all competitions. No wonder why teams were looking to pay massive amounts for his services. Anzhi Makhachkala did just that as they paid €27mil for a 30 year old Eto’o.

The problem is that Inter did not replace Eto’o with anyone who could score these amounts of goals. They signed Forlan, but he could go nowhere near the numbers which Eto’o was smashing out.

Inter in the 2011/12 season would go on to finish 6th in Serie A and the decline of Inter soon begun. Just shows how crucial Eto’o was to the competitiveness of that Inter side back then.

Who’s next?

We will be visiting number 11 next on our countdown. Who would you like to see in that number 11 spot for the Top 20 Inter players in the past 20 years?

As always Forza Inter!