Goal.com 50: Samuel Eto’o (9)

Goal.com continues to count down our 50 best players of 2008-09 with No. 9, Barcelona’s (and now Inter Milan’s) Samuel Eto’o...

While Samuel Eto’o has frequently had a reputation for running his mouth, this past season, the Cameroonian international was far better known for his running on the pitch. Enjoying one of his most successful seasons as a professional footballer, Eto’o’s 2008-2009 campaign was one that Barca supporters will not soon forget.

But in the summer of 2008, it was not even clear that Eto’o would continue to wear the Barcelona colours. As club president Joan Laporta cleaned out shop after a tremendously disappointing season, famously selling off Ronaldinho,  Deco, and others, Eto’o was heavily rumoured to not fit into new coach Pep Guardiola’s plans and was billed as just one more casualty of the rebuilding process.

After significant and prolonged transfer speculation though, it became clear that Guardiola would, in fact, count on the Cameroonian international—and what a brilliant decision that would turn out to be.

In what was his best season ever for Barcelona, Eto’o was an unstoppable force in the Blaugrana attack, teaming up with teammates Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry to create a lethal front line. In fact, dubbed by the Spanish press as the ‘tridente’ or the trident, the three superstars became the most prolific trio in the history of the league, eclipsing the previous record held by Real Madrid trio Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo di Stefano and Luis del Sol in the 1960-61 season.

After a 2007 season in which he was plagued by injury, Eto’o found his world class form once again—improving on the 16 goals he scored in the previous season, to leading La Liga in scoring for most of the year with 30 goals. Unfortunately though, he just barely missed winning the Pichichi (the award presented to La Liga’s top scorer), as Atletico de Madrid’s Diego Forlan edged him out in the final few matches of the season to finish the year with 32 goals.  

Eto’o’s efficiency in front of goal contributed to some of the most important results of the year for Barcelona. In the first Clasico match against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou, even after having a penalty kick saved, Eto’o delivered a crucial goal in the dying moments of the match—a goal that tipped the Liga pendulum in Barcelona’s favour and re-established a new balance of power, ending Real Madrid’s reign.  

But the goal that will define Eto’o’s season came in the Champions League final against Manchester United, as the Cameroonian international beat ManU goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar  in the 10th minute to score the first of Barca’s two goals and bring a second Champions League crown to the Catalunyan capital in four years.  

With Eto’o’s help, Barcelona progressed to take the triplete—the Liga championship, the Copa del Rey crown, and the Champions League trophy. But at the end of the season, the rumour mill began to turn once again, as Barcelona very publicly began to shop their star striker around.  

The relationship between the club and the player began to deteriorate, eventually hitting a breaking point as hostilities rendered a peaceful solution impossible. In the end, Eto’o decided to leave Barcelona for Serie A giants Inter Milan.  

If his output with Inter compares to his performances for Barcelona in 2008/2009, Eto’o could possibly climb even higher in Goal.com’s list next year…

Cyrus C. Malek, Goal.com