Debate: Should Barcelona Let Go Of Samuel Eto'o?

Samuel Eto'o might have been one of Barcelona's best players last season but the Cameroonian seems to be heading out of Camp Nou this summer.'s Subhankar Mondal ponders on the situation and asks whether Barcelona are making a mistake in letting their star striker leave.....

At least this time it is an intra-European affair.

Last summer things became so desperate bordering on the pathetic that Samuel Eto'o was paraded in as remote an area football-wise as Uzbekistan with a distinct possibility of the Cameroonian plying his club football in the Asian nation. Of course, in the end it didn't quite materialize and FC Barcelona eventually were consigned to their fate of having Eto'o in their squad for the 2008-2009 season, but the rest, as the severely tortured cliché has it, is history.

This time too it's becoming pretty much the same old game. Last summer Barca coach Josep Guardiola wanted Eto'o out and even after a season in which Eto'o almost got the Pichichi in Spain and scored the opening goal in the final of the Champions League, Guardiola wants pretty much the same thing. Last summer Eto'o appeared to be on the move only not to move in the end and although the 28-year-old has no paucity of clubs eager to land him, it appears that the player is willing to remove himself from Camp Nou only if he garners a lot of money.

It must really be baffling and perhaps even ridiculous to believe that Barcelona are so desperate to get rid of the second best striker in Europe. After all, over the past five seasons Eto’o has been one of the most consistent strikers in Spain, scoring 107 goals in La Liga over this period. It was Eto'o's goals that led Barcelona to their first Spanish Primera Division triumph in six years in 2005-2006 season and it would be his combination with Ronaldinho and Deco that would win the Champions League and the Spanish league for the Catalans the following season.

This might well be a coincidence but Barcelona have played well and won trophies when Eto'o has played well. In 2006-2007 Eto'o featured in only 19 league matches netting the ball only 11 times and providing 8 assists and Barcelona lost the title on the final day of the season; in 2007-2008 Eto'o missed over half the season with injury and Barcelona finished 18 points behind Real Madrid in third. Last season Eto'o scored 30 times in the league and Barca conquered Spain with ease.

Samuel Eto'o might be a goal machine but he is the not the selfish brat that most goalscorers often are. The Cameroonian creates as many goals as he scores, plays his role in the team perfectly on the pitch and combines well with his fellow strikers and midfielders, although there are whispers that he tends to miss quite a number of chances- in fact, it was more his misses and less Diego Forlan's goals that saw him lose the Pichichi towards the end of last season.

Apparently it is Eto'o's off-pitch behavior that appears to bother Barcelona and Pep Guardiola. No, Eto'o is not the second coming of Ronaldinho or Deco and does not like to stretch himself on the dance floor at night and then withdraw himself on the football pitch in the morning, but the Cameroonian's rather outspoken nature is not very well liked by the Barcelona hierarchy.

Last season Eto'o was quoted as saying that playing for Barcelona is work and that his home in Spain is Real Mallorca. Eto'o’s bust-up with the already departed Ronaldinho might have been buried deep inside the sand but there are apprehensions that he might pick one up with another of his teammate.

Then there's the business part. Eto'o’s current contract with Barcelona expires at the end of next season and it implies that Eto'o could then leave on a free transfer and Barca won't get any richer. A striker of Eto'o's class would bring in at least €35 million even in a dormant market and with the way that Real Madrid have skyrocketed the transfer fees this summer he might well bring in ten or so millions more.

Incidentally €40-45 million would be the same amount required to sign David Villa from Valencia. Of course Manuel Llorente has made Villa 'unavailable' in the transfer market but it is only because he wants to milk more money from the Villa sell-out. The general feeling is that second best striker in Europe Samuel Eto'o would be replaced by the best striker in Europe David Villa at Camp Nou this summer.

Villa is just a year younger than Eto'o and has that much more technical ability than the Cameroonian. David Villa guarantees success upfront and would easily fit in the 4-3-3 formation that Barcelona play. And with his goalscoring record at Valencia where he often takes free-kicks and corners (and penalties) and at times creates his own chances to score, Villa is certain to gel at Camp Nou. As far as loyalty goes, everyone knows that David Villa is Sporting de Gijon through and through but the difference between him and Eto'o is that Villa does not make any bragging statement in the media regarding his love and loyalty.

As ridiculous this may sound, losing Samuel Eto'o in the summer wouldn't really be very damaging for Barcelona, provided they manage to rope in David Villa. But would be a move away from Camp Nou be a good thing to happen to the player? Well, leaving the European champions for any club is always a step down and moving to Manchester City where there is no guarantee of Champions League football would be several steps down, football-wise.

Monetarily, it is a different story.

Subhankar Mondal