Everton’s search for forward reinforcements seems to be over after the club confirmed the signing of 33-year-old Samuel Eto’o today.
The former Barcelona, Internazionale and Chelsea forward joins up with Roberto Martinez’s side on a two-year deal, and the three-time Champions League winner will bring a wealth of experience at the pinnacle of the European game with him to Goodison Park.
And although there will naturally be questions aplenty about the wisdom of signing a player who’s best days are undeniably behind him, bringing in a striker of the Cameroonian’s stature represents a major coup for the Toffees.
Eto’o has been one of the premier strikers in world soccer over the past decade, after all. Admittedly, he no longer has the blistering pace that made him a world-class talent, nor the industry that saw him regularly play a crucial role as a wide forward for Pep Guardiola at Barcelona and Jose Mourinho at Inter. But as early as last season, we’ve already seen that he’s a player that still has that supreme predatory instinct.
For Everton, that’s a quality that’ll be most welcome. With Arouna Kone still sidelined with a long-term injury, Romelu Lukaku was the Toffees’ only fit orthodox striker before Eto’o’s signature was confirmed. The Belgian—who signed for the club in a record £28 million deal—will surely remain first choice, but the Cameroonian represents a fine alternative.
Anyway, with the Toffees set to compete on four fronts this season, Eto’o will be well aware that he stands to get plenty of game time. So expect the veteran forward to get his chances coming off the bench in the Premier League and as a starter in the cup competitions.
Eto’o is a player that has always scored regular goals throughout his career. Even at Chelsea last season, where he was rotated in and out of the side regularly, he scored nine times in 21 appearances. They came against pretty capable opposition too, as he notched against Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and a hat-trick against Manchester United.
For the other players in this developing Everton squad, having a player around with a career as trophy-laden as Eto’o can only serve as marvellous inspiration. He’s a forward who clearly has a winning mentality, and a player that can help transform Everton’s outlook as Martinez looks to raise ambitions at the club.
And for the likes of the 21-year-old Lukaku, are there many better role models in the game to learn from if you’re a forward? Eto’o has shone in myriad positions across the front line, scored goals in the biggest matches in European football and as he’s moved into the latter stages of his career, adapted his game accordingly.
For Lukaku, who’s game is still a little rough around the edges, working with Eto’o on a day-to-day basis will not only serve as excellent motivation, but it will help to refine his skills and develop as a complete centre-forward.
Naturally, there will be plenty of detractors when it comes to this signing, for Eto’o is tagged with a few undesirable stigmas. His constant run-ins with the Cameroonian FA have occasionally portrayed a fractious, self-important figure, while his move to Anzhi Makhachkala in 2012 painted a picture of a player who chased the money in a lesser league when he still had plenty to offer at Europe’s top level.
But at this stage of his career, if Eto’o was chasing one final payday you suspect a move to a developing, wealthy league. Instead, he’s taken a pay cut to sign up with the Toffees and is clearly hungry for a second crack at the Premier League in a progressive side under a fine young manager.
Let’s not forget either, this is a player Mourinho—a manager who does not suffer fools—has signed twice in his managerial career. It’s something that speaks volumes not only about Eto’o’s abilities as a player, but is a measure of his attitude and application; two qualities the Portuguese boss places a huge emphasis on when building his teams.
Martinez is looking to reform Everton’s image from plucky underdogs to major players in the Premier League and signing players of Eto’o’s global stature will serve only as a catalyst for that process. Having already smashed their transfer record this summer, it’s clear that the Toffees are a club looking to make big statements.
Eto’o’s acquisition may represent the last of the boisterous moves made in this off-season, but his signing is another fascinating facet in what was promises to be a gripping campaign for the Toffees. A campaign that their new no.5 looks set to play a vital role in.