It would be easy to lump Samuel Eto’o in with the other high-profile strikers who have failed at Chelsea; too easy in fact. The transfer fee may not always come to mind when thinking of a player who could have been considered the world’s best in his position at one time, now following a trend of forwards who arrived at Stamford Bridge only to tarnish the reputation they once held.
Chelsea weren’t hitting top form against Everton, but Eto’o’s misses would have stood out. Is this to be yet another costly error on the transfer front? – and by costly, I mean what it could cost Chelsea in missed opportunities later in the season.
But the fact is Eto’o is nothing like Fernando Torres, Andriy Shevchenko or Hernan Crespo. The Cameroon international had more or less retired from the big time in European football, looking to kick back with the easy life, to a degree, in the Russian Premier League. Remember, non English footballers retire upwards. Though that didn’t mean Eto’o couldn’t be of use to a major force in the European game. He’s just a different player now.
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Jose Mourinho knows him well. Under the Portuguese’s watch at Inter Milan, Eto’o won his second in back-to-back trebles, while also converting from a centre-forward into a wide player, one complete with all the defensive responsibilities. If Mourinho sees use in the 32-year-old, it’s simply supplementary, rather than as a primary form of attack. This isn’t a replacement for Didier Drogba, much in the same way David Villa isn’t replacing Radamel Falcao at Atletico Madrid. Both teams have had to adjust their styles and their focal points in attack, and the availability of both Eto’o and Villa is a simply a matter of fortune.
And then there’s the quite obvious fact that this is Eto’o’s first game with Chelsea, and as has been already highlighted, the whole team weren’t able to take something from a determined Everton. The primary issue in attack remains that of Fernando Torres, otherwise why would Chelsea have been so open to loaning out Romelu Lukaku and Demba Ba, until, of course, a last minute change of heart on the latter?
The transfer fee is, however, quite important. The investment in wages may be significant, but there isn’t an inflated transfer figure hanging over Eto’o’s head. Moreover, he’s sort of gone through all of that before; this isn’t uncharted territory for him.
I also made the point last month that the signing of Eto’o would be far more beneficial to Chelsea than bringing in Wayne Rooney – and that’s with the assumption that Torres wouldn’t be moved on. Sure, the Manchester United forward may have made Chelsea unquestionable favourites for the Premier League title, but at what cost? There’s a myriad of attacking options within the Chelsea ranks, all of whom will by vying for a place in the starting XI and each with a legitimate claim for one. Rooney could have been a problem and a hindrance on at least one individual – of which the majority are still young. The arrival of Eto’o gives Chelsea an option but one that isn’t a problem. He’ll play his minutes and offer goals across the campaign, but he’s a peripheral figure now, one who’s taken temporary leave from the big time in European football and has now returned older but still with obvious qualities.
It’s all low risk. Chelsea don’t need Eto’o to succeed in the way they needed Shevchenko and Torres to justify their transfer fees. Eto’o isn’t the star he once was and he’s far from the face of this Chelsea team. What Jose Mourinho has done is bring in an ally and someone who can ease the pressure of his job.
It was interesting that the Chelsea manager said it was “Rooney or no one” prior to the transfer window closing, only to end up with Eto’o for a minimal fee. Once again, a matter of fortune that wasn’t present when he made that statement. Torres, in contrast, was a long-term target who was thought of as the final piece of the puzzle.
Is Eto’o comparable to Torres and Shevchenko?
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