Samuel Eto: From World’s deadliest striker to Forgotten man

Once ranked alongside Didier Drogba as the best-known and most successful African player of his generation, Samuel Eto’o used his celebrity as a force for good this week when he sent a heartfelt message of support to his ‘big brother’ and former Cameroon international team-mate Rigobert Song after a life-threatening brain aneurysm.

But there is another side of Eto’o that is threatening to end his illustrious career in turmoil and acrimony at the age of 35 in Turkey with Antalyaspor.


Eto’o is one of the greats, no doubt. A lithe, mobile centre-forward, he has scored goals for some of Europe’s biggest clubs including Barcelona, Inter Milan – where he won the Treble under Jose Mourinho – and Chelsea. He also played for his country in four World Cup tournaments.

Yet as his talents have subsided, the high maintenance part of his character has led to problems.

He left Everton after six months at the beginning of 2015 for reasons that have never been explained. One minute, manager Roberto Martinez called him ‘a gift from the footballing Gods’, the next he was off to Sampdoria.

From there, he joined Antalyaspor, a small but financially well-off and ambitious club based in the popular southern coastal resort of Antalya.

And after a promising start in his first full season, in which he scored 20 goals in 31 appearances, things have unravelled quite badly.

Their manager Jose Morais is an acolyte of Jose Mourinho – they worked together at Inter, Real Madrid and Chelsea – and isn’t one who naturally likes player-power.


Because of Eto’o’s status and his form, the striker was given leeway last season, taking time off training to help organise a star-studded charity match which was scheduled for July but had to be called off at late notice following an attempted coup in Turkey.

Lionel Messi was among those who had pledged to take part, others like former England manager Fabio Capello were already in Antalya when the postponement was announced.

Behind-the-scenes, Eto’o by all accounts was wanting to call the shots even more. He told Antalyaspor’s President he didn’t want to work with Morais anymore.

The President backed the manager but then he was replaced at the top of the club by Ali Öztürk Safak.

Ozturk told Morais that both he and Eto’o would stay and he would ensure the superstar player would be controlled.

An uncomfortable ceasefire didn’t take long to break. Eto’o played in the first three games of the season, scored only one goal, but Antalyaspor lost everyone.

Born: March 10, 1981, Douala, Cameroon

Clubs played for: Real Madrid CF, CD Leganés (loan), RCD Espanyol (loan), RCD Mallorca, FC Barcelona, FC Inter Milan, Anzhi Makhachkala, Chelsea, Everton, Sampdoria, Antalyaspor

International record: 118 appearances for Cameroon, 56 goals

Club honours: Champions League, (2006, 2009, 2010), Copa del Rey (2003, 2009), La Liga (2005, 2006, 2009), Serie A (2010), Coppa Italia (2010, 2011),

International achievements: Africa Cup of Nations (2000, 2002), Olympic gold medal (2000)

Individual honours: African Player of the Year (2003, 2004, 2005, 2010), Pichichi Trophy (2006), Russian Premier League MVP Award (2013), African Cup of Nations All-Time Top Scorer, RCD Mallorca All-Time Top Scorer, Cameroon All-Time Top Scorer, Golden Foot Award (2015)

Morais was furious at the striker’s lack of energy on the pitch and in training. There were even mutterings the player was trying to persuade others to take part in an effective go-slow.

The collapse of a summer move to Besiktas was said to be partly to blame. Eto’o believed Antalyaspor were holding him against his will, others said the transfer collapsed because of the player’s huge wage demands.

Things came to a head when Eto’o tweeted: ‘There are probably people who don’t respect me because I’m black.’

Though Eto’o has been committed to the cause of anti-racism in the past, Antalyaspor felt the message was completely unfounded. They believed it was aimed at Safak.

Morais was relieved happy to go along with the club’s decision to suspend Eto’o who was forced to train in the Mediterranean heat on his own – some comedown for a player who has won the Champions League with two different clubs.

An uneasy peace has broken out as Eto’o returned from the bench on Sunday against Galatasaray. Except Antalyaspor lost again and are currently bottom of the Turkish league with two points from six games.

Eto’o still has 18 months left on his contract and knows his worth. ‘We hope he will behave more carefully in the future,’ said Ozturk, desperately trying to keep his star asset and everyone else happy.

It’s a sad tale of a player raging against the light as his powers as a world-class footballer dwindle.

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