You can’t sum up Samuel Eto’o in numbers, although they’re impressive enough to rattle off. Twenty-two years as a professional, 13 clubs, six countries, four league titles, three Champions League crowns, two Africa Cup of Nations and the 2000 Olympic Gold medal with Cameroon.
Last week, he brought to a close an incredible career, one from which he squeezed every ounce of adrenaline. You can choose your own highlight from two decades at the top. Football-wise, three things stand out, each of which in its own way helps define him — although only in part.
Eto’o successfully straddled both the Ronaldinho and the Lionel Messi eras at Barcelona, ultimately leaving in that ill-fated swap with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He arrived at Inter to play up front with Diego Milito and then, after Jose Mourinho signed Wesley Sneijder, selflessly transformed himself into a humble up-and-down winger, doing the running not just for Milito, but Sneijder too, and playing a key part in the historic Treble.
And he became the world’s highest-paid player by moving to Anzhi Makhachkala in war-torn Dagestan at the age of 31, a transfer which shocked the world and pulverised records.
More than most superstars, he embraced and relished the blue-collar role when called upon to serve others, whether Ronaldinho, Messi or Sneijder. He knew when to ride his ego and when to put it aside. Folks may differ on whether or not he was the greatest player ever from Africa, but he’s easily in my personal top three, alongside Eusebio (who played for Portugal but was born in Mozambique and was older than Eto’o when he moved to Europe) and Jay Jay Okocha.