Some people are just a little too sensitive, and throughout his career, Samuel Eto’o has demonstrated he’s one of them. The most recent drama: after being criticized by former Cameroon great Roger Milla, Eto’o hinted he could sit out the World Cup. That’s an overreaction to the statements of one person unassociated with the Cameroon Football Federation — certainly England would have nobody on the roster if every former-great-turned-bitter-blowhard’s criticism stung their players as much. As the team captain, the highest scoring player in the history of Cameroon as well as in the African Cup of Nations, a gold medalist for his country and so forth, Eto’o ought to be comfortable enough with his national contributions to shrug it off. Fortunately, after some ass-kissing by CFF execs, he will be on the plane.
Offputting moments like these have popped up with Eto’o from time to time. In 2007, he once refused to go in as a sub for Barca, and everyone from the press to Ronaldinho weighed in with consternation. Before that, he derided Madrid fans via a chant calling them bastards when celebrating the 04-05 La Liga title. (Thanks Wikipedia!). And when he was shipped off to Inter this summer along with a boatload of cash for Ibrahimovic, people whispered about it being a locker room move as much as anything else.
But we come not to bury Eto’o but to praise him. Because he’s just won 6 major trophies in 2 years with 2 different teams in 2 different leagues playing 2 different roles, and nobody seems to care that we’ll never see anything like it again. Ignoring the inconceivably challenging part of doing it with two totally different squads, Samuel Eto’o is the first player to ever win back-to-back trebles at all. Leo Messi got the accolades, but it was Samuel Eto’o who led Barcelona in scoring during their greatest-ever season in 08-09. Along with 30 goals in La Liga, Eto’o rang up 6 goals in the Champions League, becoming only the second player ever to score in 2 Champs finals. After Barca shoved their leading scorer out the door, he arrived at Inter, where he eventually was asked to play in a deeper striking position behind Diego Milito. Eto’o responded with fewer goals (14), but had several crucial assists, especially in their run through Champs. His crosses set up the 1st and 3rd goals in their 3-1 win in Milan over Barca. And Milito’s second goal in the final came from a brilliant open field play by Eto’o (who was wide open after his pass had Milito decided to share the scoring glory).
If Eto’o is the clubhouse cancer of rumor, why was he so willing to change his game at Inter? This might have been the first time in his life that Eto’o was asked to do anything other than lead the line, but nobody heard a peep of dissatisfaction. Sure, it looked like he was miffed that Milito didn’t send him that ball back in Madrid, but if you had the chance to become the first human to score in 3 separate Champs finals, wouldn’t you have a moment of disappointment that it didn’t happen? He quietly played a season more like a Steven Gerrard than a Fernando Torres, totally not what he’s used to, and all he did was collect every relevant trophy. AGAIN.
Suppose Rooney had won the treble at Manchester United as their leading scorer in league and Europe. Then suppose he went to Real Madrid the next year, and after being asked to serve as a playmaker as well as a scorer, he won the treble again. After that, the soft-focus reporting would never cease! Magazine and books and blogs and tattoos would be written about it for months on end all over the world. He’d win every major award that year, and probably the next year too just from the fumes of his post-double-treble glory. It would be called the greatest two-year run in world history, because objectively it would be — nobody did it before in the same role on the same team, much less in the two totally different circumstances he found himself in.
And yet, here’s Samuel Eto’o, a person who accomplished all of that, and the biggest story of his summer is that he got miffed at a former Cameroon player and blew off some steam about it in an inappropriate fashion. He won’t win any major awards handed out by Europeans. He’ll get a fraction of the coverage and memorabilia made that Rooney or Drogba or Messi would had they accomplished his feats. And next year, he’ll be viewed as just another good player on a great team.
If Eto’o claimed to be the greatest player in the world, he’d be mocked the world over. But not by me. Or his trophy cabinet.