Samuel Eto’o, although he seems to have been playing at the top level for such a long time, was, in fact, born in March 1981 in Nkon, Cameroon. Seemingly followed by controversy, Eto’o signed for Real Madrid as a 16 year old and had, to put it mildly, a strange relationship with the club from then on.
Firstly, upon his arrival at Madrid airport, young Samuel was famously forgotten about – a young black African with no Spanish hanging around an airport; an inauspicious beginning. After uneventful loan spells at Leganés and Espanyol, the coltish-looking Eto’o found himself loaned out to Mallorca, where he really began to show off his credentials.
Scoring 54 goals, Eto’o became the islanders’ highest league goal scorer and developed a real affinity with the supporters there – and he famously scored a spectacular individual goal against Madrid in the Bernabeu! Eto’o enjoyed his relationship with Mallorca so much that, when they reached the Copa del Rey final in 2003, he paid out EUR30,000 on a meal for them!
At the end of his loan spell, the Real Madrid supporters were almost unanimous in their desire for Samuel to return to the capital and compete for the forward positions with Raul and Ronaldo. What followed was a summer of continuous speculation and argument and eventually, for EUR24 million, the player signed for Barcelona – something that still annoys many Real Madrid fans.
Since then, Eto’o has scored goals galore for the Catalan giants. In his first, championship-winning season, Eto’o scored 25 league goals, including the title-clinching strike at Levante. He reached 50 goals in just 67 matches – a club record.
In addition to wining African Footballer of the year a record three times in succession from 2003, Samuel was part of the Cameroon side that won the African Cup in 2000 and 2002 and was runner-up in 2008. Previously, he had been the youngest player, at 17 years and 3 months, in the 1998 World Cup. He was the pichichi, top goal scorer, in La Liga in 2005/06, when, of course, he scored an equalising goal in the Champions’ League final against Arsenal.
Controversy has never been far away, however. After winning the league in 2005, Eto’o made the mistake of singing an abusive song about Madrid during the on-pitch celebrations. He has also been famously outspoken in his denouncements of racial abuse chanted in grounds – even threatening to walk off during one league game at Zaragova. Furthermore, there were times during 2007/08 season when Samuel Eto’o seemed a very forlorn figure, when his relationship with some of the other players was not at its best. At the end of the season, it seemed that the club were determined to transfer Ronaldinho, Deco and Eto’o, the perceived bad influences at the club. Eto’o, though, with typical determination, was adamant that his future was still with Barcelona – and he has proved to be absolutely correct.
Samuel Eto’o is fast, two-footed, brave and a totally committed team player and arguably the best centre forward in modern football.
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