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Rafa’s Eto’o: More goals

July 31, 2010 - Inter Milan's Samuel Eto'o in action during International play at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. The team from Milan won the match, 3-0.

Samuel Eto’o has won plenty of trophies, scored plenty of goals, and played in plenty of different systems. He has often played as a center-forward, finishing plays and scoring lots of goals, but for Inter Milan, under the orders of Jose Mourinho, Eto’o wasn’t used as a finisher, but maybe more as a supporter. Now Rafael Benitez has a new position for Eto’o in mind, instead of sacrificing the player to provide defensive cover, Benitez wants his Eto’o to score more goals.

Eto’o used to be Barcelona’s assassin, quick and precise with his runs towards goal, served by Xavi or Iniesta leaving him to provide the final touch for the goal. Eto’o was Barcelona’s adaptable striker in a 4-3-3, changing positions with Messi and Henry to help his teammates score goals of their own. Eto’o was the perfect striker for Barcelona, providing goals and sacrificing himself for the team, a creative and intelligent player who always knew when to be where. The Cameroon striker was a key player in Barcelona’s treble in the 2008-09 season, but when Barcelona decided to give Eto’o away to receive Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they lost their hardworking goalscorer, and they got a relatively lazy center-forward.

When Eto’o went to Inter Milan to play under Jose Mourinho, he was introduced to a whole new system: one which didn’t revolve around his attacking movement, but one which required a lot more defensive work from him. While during the beginning of the season Eto’o played in a 4-3-1-2 (next to Diego Milito supported by Sneijder), as the season went on, Mourinho changed formation, slowly shifting Eto’o wider and wider. This eventually became a 4-2-1-3 in attack, with Sneijder behind Pandev, Milito, and Eto’o on the right, and a 4-2-3-1 in defense, with Milito left as a lone striker, and Pandev and Eto’o playing defensively. In this system Inter Milan was a counter-attacking machine, but Eto’o was used in a position which maybe isn’t his best.

Eto’o played almost as a full-back in certain matches, providing defensive support for the entire right wing, letting Maicon charge forward with his rampaging runs. This was especially evident during Champions League matches, for example when Inter Milan played Barcelona in the semi-final at the San Siro: Eto’o had a much more passive and defensive role as Maicon went forward to score in the match that ended 3-1 for Inter Milan. Eto’o sacrificed himself in this way many times, but he retained his goalscoring instinct with his 16 goals for Inter Milan, 12 in the Serie A, two in the Champions League, one in the Coppa Italia, and one in the Supercoppa Italia.

Now, Rafael Benitez has already talked to Eto’o, and he has reassured the player that he will have a more attacking role in the upcoming season. Benitez doesn’t want to change the system, he wants to improve it, a higher defensive line is the basis of the new Inter Milan. This will allow more possession, giving Inter a Spanish style, and it will allow for players like Eto’o more freedom to push offensively, with no need to drop back into the full-back position. Rafael Benitez wants to change the 4-2-3-1 into something more similar to a 4-2-1-2-1, raising the two offensive wingers higher up, creating a system similar to a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-1-3.

This system would throw away Eto’o’s vertical movement on the wing, and it would allow Eto’o to cut inside the box, exchange with Milito and Sneijder, and be as dangerous as his Barcelona days. Benitez is trying to get the best out of the Barcelona player while at the same time using the other players like Sniejder and Pandev to supply Eto’o and Milito. And if Moratti were to buy Dirk Kuyt, there would be a new “hardworker” to provide defensive cover, allowing Eto’o to play even more offensively and hopefully score more goals.

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Click to comment


  1. Ibrahim e. Bebetu

    March 7, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Etoo is my best player since Miller retired. And as at today no player in Africa that can match him and in the World is only Inesta he will compete with. please link me to Etoo as soon as possible. Thanks

  2. CHI

    November 15, 2010 at 7:12 am


  3. Bobjazz from TO

    October 14, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    I think Eto’o is a far more talented striker than Millito and that’s why Barcelona is suffering today because of their mistake of trading Eto’o. Even though Mourinho new that Eto’o was a better striker than Millito, he also thought Eto’o had more skills and could help better in different positions than Millito would and so he decided to use Eto’o as Messi and use Millito as Eto’o and Millito scored 23 goals while Eto’o would have scored 32 goals because he trusted his defense.

  4. nfami chamberlin

    October 4, 2010 at 11:38 am

    bonjour samuel ,infatiguable combattant assassin des gardiens de buts pour quand ton prochain match au stade omnisport de Douala ta ville de residence ça nous manque beaucoup les match à douala ton public de coeur on ve te sentir en chaire et en sueur dans cette arene merci

  5. Niccolo

    July 30, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Hi Rami,

    I’ve always thought that Mourinho’s success is 50% motivation, 30% tactics, and 20% luck. Mourinho is a very lucky man and I remember many last minute goals from last season and even the one before, where Inter didn’t deserve to win.
    For me Benitez will be successful at Inter, he wants to improve what Mourinho did last season, not throw it away and start again. As for Eto’o, I’m not sure what to think, but I’m sure that in the end he will find a way to play where he scores goals along with Milito.

    • Rami S.

      July 31, 2010 at 1:25 am

      Hello Niccolo,

      You’ve touched upon a topic I am quite intrigued by and have debated for years now! Mourinho is a master motivator and great at getting the best out of his players but I believe he is not the best tactician out there. We are in full agreement there.

      I’d say luck (at 20%) is a fair assessment and I’d say all teams need luck (whether couple of calls their way or against the teams chasing them, a lucky goal, opposition facing unlucky injuries, etc…). I’d say motivation as tool by Mourinho would probably gather about 60% because the Portuguese is by far the best at motivating his players.

      I’d put his tactics and choices at 20% only. He got lucky against some of the Serie A teams and Inter won a few games which should have ended in a tie. At the end, Inter deserved to win the title not because of their performances but because Roma threw away the title which brings another topic- that of Ranieri’s eternal destiny to finish second best.

      Going back to Mourinho, he was lucky to be at Chelsea at the right time and with a massive budget, then with Inter who have the best players and a huge budget and now Real Madrid who have some of the biggest stars in the game & rely on a big budget.

      I am not sure if you saw this piece I wrote a while back but we all know Mourinho is not just a master motivator but also a person who craves the attention of the media. Here’s the link and thankfully the majority have figured Mourinho’s manipulative skills out because there are still some considerable numbers who out him up amongst some of the all-time greats which is inaccurate:

  6. Rami S.

    July 28, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Hi Niccolo,

    Many praise Mourinho’s tactics and his ability to manage players (and I don’t disagree with most of that), but he really did not invent a new system or create something original. He actually followed a mix of an Italian strategy along with some minor adjustments.

    Mourinho relies on a strong defensive unit + GK (Julio Cesar) and then makes sure he can win games even if by a score of 1-0. When he was in charge of Chelsea, they were not really entertaining and with Inter he was after the results as opposed to the attractive approach. Some used to mix both and win just like Barca do but not Mourinho.

    His style reminds me a bit of Arrigo Sacchi with Italy during the 1990s. In any case, I believe Eto’o will have more chances to score but the question is whether this will come at the expense of D. Milito scoring less. Last season, Diego was key to Inter’s treble as he scored against Siena in Serie A, Roma in Coppa Italia and had the double against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

    This piece I wrote shows the majority believe D. Milito was crucial for the treble as the poll proves:

    As such, one wonders if more for Eto’o means less for Diego.

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