This short span in the busy calendar ahead of the next European season means the start of an entertaining, risky and frustrating side-show called the Transfer Market. Sometimes it can be helpful to think about the past and how it informs the present. For example, we are approaching the thirteenth anniversary of a terrible piece of Barcelona’s summer market that did not have the same financial penalties as their recent adventures, but nonetheless painful and embarrassing for the Camp Nou.
At the time, Barcelona had just won the treble and only the fifth club to do so, Pep Guardiola had emerged as a catalyst – not just for his club, but for a particularly exciting and complex brand of football – and for footballers such as Can Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets Pedro, Xavi and Andres Iniesta are about to conquer the world. However, Samuel Eto’o, despite having the best form of his career and scoring 36 goals during the treble-winning season, was informed that he would be left out in order to bring in Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Inter Milan.
You read that right: enough adults at the Camp Nou were foolish enough to believe that a) getting the Swedish star in place of Africa’s greatest player was a beneficial exchange and that b) Zlatan deserved a higher transfer fee than Eto’o! In the process, Guardiola allowed Barcelona to take over a moody and self-interested player, but he forcefully pushed the sinister Tasmanian nature to do so, paying €46m in fees for the franchise. silly.
The rest is history: Zlatan has continued a sad season Blaugrana colours, while Eto’o immediately became the only player in history to win the treble in successive seasons: not only was he central to Barcelona’s brilliance in 2008-2009, but he played a key role in ending Inter Barcelona’s defense in the Champions League in the semi-finals, and to Nerazzurri Recording the greatest season in their history. For those keeping score: Eto’o won La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League in Spain, then Serie A, Coppa Italia and the Champions League, all in the span of 21 months.
Operation “Oops!” Or what?
– ESPN + guide: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup and more (USA)
– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (US only)
– You don’t have ESPN? Get instant pass
In general, it was untenable, either in its original form or with the benefit of hindsight. However, there was a bit of context recently when Eto’o, president of the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot), went into his country’s dressing room after their narrow win over Burundi and left some exciting phrases on the field. players for their efforts. The context is: Ito is not an easy guy to live with.
Cameroon, which had already qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, was trying to qualify for the next Africa Cup of Nations. You would think that the victory of Cameroon, with tremendous control of possession, at the end of a long and exhausting season, was, as they say, a win. Not Eto’o. He believed that he witnessed one of the things he deeply despises: the lack of an “all or nothing” attitude. Thus, he “lost it”. Who photographed him in the dressing room? And who would have thought that distributing it on social media was a good idea?
#Cameroon Samuel Eto’o, FA president: “Nobody has a place guaranteed. You have to do your job. Whoever wants to come and put on the Cameroon shirt, he does his job when he’s in this team. Otherwise he doesn’t come and I’ll be happy, and I’ll play with the kids.”pic.twitter.com/kuSSJ73FPh
– Oluwashina Okeleji (oluwashina) June 10, 2022
First, it was ironic that Eto’o, who had always been at loggerheads with the NFL, club-wide employers, teammates, and inevitably the media (one of whom was hit with a header) while in the prime of his career. He immediately used his new position to attack players representing his country. Ironically because there was a blazing fire in 2010, shortly before the World Cup in South Africa, where Fecafoot boss, legendary Roger Milla (Italy 90’s star), put the boot at Eto’o, who was on his way to that second treble on the straight while in Italy.
Questioning Eto’o and his efforts while playing with the Indomitable Lions, Milla said: “He has done a lot for Barcelona and Inter, but nothing for Cameroon.” Reciprocity continued, with Eto’o threatening not to bother playing for his country at the World Cup “if that’s what he’s looking at”. All in all, it was a ridiculous situation that was eventually avoided, and Eto’o scored the two goals for Cameroon as they were eliminated after a group stage that included the losing qualifiers Holland, as well as Denmark and Japan.
So, was Eto’o aware of the potential consequences, I wonder, when he left the current team while in Tanzania, where their win over Burundi was hosted? Was he aware that some of them might take it as badly as he took Mila’s words in 2010? The multiplication wasn’t that verbose, so I’ll reproduce most of it here:
“I’m not happy, I’m not happy at all. I have to choose the Cameroon team and those who don’t want to start work. I don’t care who you are. Everyone has to do their job.
“Do you know how many tears I’ve shed over the years because of all those missed chances at the World Cup? I know exactly why we didn’t make it back then, and I have no intention of letting it happen again now. Not as long as I’m president that’s why I took this job. : to ensure that history does not repeat itself.
“And it doesn’t matter who you are: no one is guaranteed a place in my team. Everyone has to win that place without exception. If you want to wear the Cameroon shirt, I expect you to give up and get to work. Anyone who has a problem with that will not be part of my team, and I don’t care. If I had to pick a group of kids to go to the World Cup.
“I’ve been exactly where you are for 20 years. I know exactly what you’re thinking, and you’ve probably all been calling me a ‘B’. But I was the best and even ended up where you are.”
“I will give you everything… I will spend my whole life to make you in the best condition for this contest. And I will do my best with each of you if I have to. You are here now, and I expect you to put the past and all its baggage behind you. To me, nothing matters more. From Cameroon. There is nothing greater or more beautiful than my country. I will die for the country, and I will do so with pride, with or without you.
“If you’re going to join me on this journey, I want to see some graft. And don’t make the mistake of assuming you’re on my team. In fact, if you saw another performance like the one I saw today, I can tell you right now that you’re not going anywhere.” I need more from you.
“I’ve had beautiful experiences as a Cameron player. We had exceptional teams, but we lacked any kind of unity on a basic human level, which is why I didn’t get the World Cup. This time it will be different. I need the players in this team to connect on a human level. To enjoy being together and living together. If we do it right, no one can stop us.”
I think for almost anyone outside of the professional game, this is the kind of diatribe you would imagine giving to a group of players if, through some magical process, you suddenly became responsible. Topics like “try hard,” “show more pride,” “I’m going to drop you unless,” or “don’t be under any misconceptions that I’m the big bad boss” would be reasonable. Also, most of us (often incorrectly) believe that these themes are central to poor team performance. Whether it is an effective attack or, more likely, dangerous, attacking modern, well-paid and spoiled specialists like that And the Allowing it to be shown in public is highly debatable, but that’s not the main element that grabs my attention.
Anyone who saw Eto’o trying to strangle a club employee gave him an infiltration in Barcelona’s training; Who knows his background story, when he was a child, he hid for months in his sister’s apartment in France in order to enter this country illegally; who heard him raging against Ronaldinho and Franck Rijkaard when standards were falling at the Camp Nou in the run-up to Guardiola’s takeover; Or who sympathized with his almost constant neutrality against Fecafoot’s incompetence and self-interest when he was a leading player, there will be a clear understanding, watching this video Eto’o has not changed.
This is it. It was fueled by a vast, volcanic and volatile inner fire that prompted him, without fault, to tell the truth as he saw it, not to fear retaliation, and to treat every training session, every match, and every competition as if it were life or death. This video, for those who haven’t had the privilege of seeing it flow in full force on the day he bid for Madrid, Mallorca, Barcelona, Inter, Chelsea and Cameroon, is Eto’o on Raw, The Force of Nature.
Now think for a second. How many players do you know, nowadays, who are like these? Not exactly identical in every irresistible and quick-tempered detail, but cut to scale from the same fabric? I bet whoever you call, from any club or national team, are generally successful, seen as leaders and, even if polemical personalities, appreciated by their peers.
This last bout of “Eto’o-ism” may or may not work well; Serbia, Switzerland and Brazil, Cameroon’s group stage rivals at the World Cup, are sure to be watching closely. But the reason I mention Laporta, Xavi, Cruyff, Alemany, Begiristain and Guardiola at the top of this column is because they are all busy trying to find a bit of the kind of aggression in the style of Eto’o that improves their squad.
As much as they need to cut costs while adding talent, Barcelona conspicuously lack naked competitive aggression in their squad (only Gavi, Pique and Jordi Alba qualify as exceptions). And I think Guardiola, who signed consecutively and fired the young Cameroon striker), added some of these priceless intangibles to Erling Haaland. Despite the young Norwegian’s formidable talent and remarkable physical attributes, he is a man who “goes to war” day in and day out. Glory to him.
As for Barcelona, how do they recognize and succeed in enticing more players with this precious, dangerous, frustrating, but ultimately necessary spirit, that of Eto’o, something they had previously lost? Well, this will be a long, difficult and most likely fruitless task.