Could Samuel Eto’o become the transfer window bargain of the century?

Posted by Mark Worrall

Epsilon/Getty ImagesSome Chelsea fans wonder just how effective Samuel Eto'o, now 32 years old, can be at Stamford Bridge.

Whichever side of the fence Chelsea fans sit on when it comes to the debate about the departure of striker Romelu Lukaku on loan to Everton, the fact is the deal has gone through, and the powerhouse Belgium international is no doubt on his way to becoming a cult hero on the Blue half of Merseyside. It is too early to point a judgmental "I told you so" finger at Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. But with a grueling campaign ahead, and scoring goals a priority, the last thing the Stamford Bridge congregation wishes to see is a repeat of last season, when Lukaku (then on loan from the Blues to West Brom) embarrassed the forwards ahead of him in the pecking order at parent club Chelsea.

Lukaku will thrive at Everton, and given his proven capability to destroy Premier League defences, it is to be hoped that he ripples the nets of Chelsea's title rivals at every given opportunity -- and maybe this is part of Mourinho's master plan. A plan of course that the Special One has had to rewrite since his hot pursuit of Wayne Rooney turned to custard.

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Chelsea have been shy in front of goal since Didier Drogba departed, and unless Jose has a magic wand (possible), Fernando Torres and Demba Ba are not the solution. Time will tell if either can deliver consistently -- the problem is, Mourinho and Chelsea don't have time -- and that is why the Portuguese has brought in an experienced goal-poacher in the frame of Cameroon international Samuel Eto'o.

At 32 years of age, Eto'o comes with a proven pedigree and is well-known to Mourinho, having played under him at Internazionale. "I am very happy to be here, but also anxious because I want to get playing as soon as possible," declared Eto'o via the Chelsea website following his arrival at Stamford Bridge. "It wasn't a hard decision. I saw the qualities Chelsea have and I was very happy with Jose Mourinho before, so when the opportunity came, I was very happy to take it."

Blues fans with reasonable memories will of course smile at such platitudes given that this is the same Samuel Eto'o who once referred to Chelsea as "pathetic." Back in February 2005, Eto'o, then of Barcelona, scored a 73rd-minute winner in a controversial 2-1 Champions League, round-of-16, first-leg victory for the Catalan side over the Blues. The Barca striker, hot property at the time, and naturally being tracked by a Roman Abramovich-bankrolled Mourinho, mockingly scorned the London club ahead of the return leg, exclaiming, "I would sooner sell groundnuts in my home village than play for a pathetic club like Chelsea." Eto'o's outburst served only to enrage Blues supporters and further motivate both players and manager -- all of whom were still smarting from the legacy of first-leg referee Anders Frisk's questionable sending off of Didier Drogba and the racist chants directed at the Ivorian by sections of the Chelsea crowd as he left the pitch.

Football being football, Chelsea triumphed 4-2 in the second leg, winning the tie 5-4 on aggregate and progressing to the next round. Eto'o, not unexpectedly, was jeered every time he touched the ball.

A lot of water has passed under the metaphorical Bridge since then, but Eto'o would do well to learn from the mistake that former "interim" Blues boss Rafa Benitez made when he arrived at SW6 to start work and failed to apologise for the disparaging remarks he'd made about Chelsea Football Club while managing Liverpool. All things being equal, apology forthcoming and accepted, at £2 million the signing of Eto'o from Russian fire-sale club Anzhi Makhachkala could turn out to be the most astute piece of business conducted by any of the leading Premier League clubs during this past transfer window.

Eto'o's record for his last three clubs speaks for itself: 129 goals and 35 assists in 201 appearances for Barca, 53 goals and 22 assists in 101 appearances for Inter, 36 goals and 14 assists in 71 appearances for Anzhi. On the international stage, Eto'o has garnered 112 caps and scored 55 times for Cameroon. It's a phenomenal achievement that stands up to the most rigorous of scrutiny -- but the key question on many lips is, at 32 years old, is Samuel "Sammy" Eto'o past it? And a swift look at the stats of a couple of Chelsea legends would suggest the answer to that is a resounding no!

In the Blues' double-winning season, Drogba, then the same age as Eto'o is now, plundered 37 goals and provided 12 assists for his teammates. Gianfranco Zola -- a different kind of player, but at the veteran stage of his career when he arrived at Stamford Bridge -- was also a revelation for Chelsea. Another plus point for Eto'o is his fitness. Mourinho will get a full season out of Eto'o if the manager, as seems increasingly likely, deploys him as his main striker.

In summary, then: By bringing Sammy to the Bridge, the Special One may have found the solution to the problem of finding someone to convert the chances created by his glittering midfielders. As for the man himself, obviously Eto'o has finally made a conscious decision that selling groundnuts in his home village isn't for him. He could do very well for Chelsea this season -- but don't expect to hear supporters of the club he once called "pathetic" chanting his name just yet.

Mark Worrall: @gate17marco


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