Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o has become the first player to win back-to-back trebles (League, national Cup and European Cup) with two different clubs after his Inter Milan defeated Germany’s Bayern Munich 2-0 to win the UEFA Champions League trophy.
Inter Milan had earler this month been crowned as Italian Champions and winners of the Italian Cup before Diego Milito Struck twice at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, Spain to provide the club with its third European Champions title.
Eto’o, who provided the assist for Inter’s second goal, would have entered the annals of European football history as one of only two players to have scored in three European Club Cup finals had Diego Milito passed the ball back to him.
Nonetheless, his part in Inter’s victory has been welcomed by many Cameroonians who see it as proof that he was not as surplus to requirement as presented by his former club, FC Barcelona who shoved him off to the Italian club as a top-up to €46 million for the purchase of the Swedish striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Lifting the Champions League trophy at the home ground of Real Madrid (his first club) in the season after he was dumped by their fiercest rivals, FC Barcelona, must have created a swell of emotions and thoughts for the three-time winner of the coveted Cup.
He might have flashed-back to his days at Real Madrid, the team that bought him at the age of 16 but forgot to send someone to pick him up from the airport. The team that constantly loaned him out to lower league squads including Leganes and Espanyol Barcelona; never giving him a consistent run to show his worth.
With his green-red-yellow Cameroon flag tied around his neck, it might have considered that he was running about with a trophy that is so dear to Real Madrid that ceded him to Real Mallorca but nearly toppled his move to FC Barcelona in 2004 on the basis a stake they still held in him.
A mix of things which caused a deep disdain for Madrid to the point that he spurted out a : “Madrid, cabrón, saluda al campeón” (roughly: “Madrid, bastards, salute the champions”), after winning the Spanish League title with FC Barcelona in 2005.
After five seasons at FC Barcelona, where he won three Spanish La Liga titles, two European Champions League trophies and scored 125 goals in 183 games, the Catalan team sent him packing in 2009 without much regard. He, however, contributed to the powerful defensive display by Inter that knocked-out Barcelona at the semi-finals of this season’s Champions League notwithstanding an attempted arrest on fiscal matters on his arrival with Inter in Barcelona for the game in April.
Victory must come as a real consolation for the 29-year-old who has had to display professional rigour, discipline and humility to blend into Inter Milan’s system of play where he has been hailed more for his defensive acumen than his goal scoring credentials. It has been one of his lowest scoring seasons (only 12 goals in the Italian League) during which he had to play on the wings leaving Milito to shine as the multiple-scoring centre-forward.
Astute observers such as the football tactics website ZonalMarking have noted his immense contribution to his club’s success this season as confirmed by this analysis of the Bayern versus Inter Final:
“Samuel Eto’o will be praised for his defensive role, but he was a key part in the second goal. First he held off Badstuber, luring him into a crazy challenge he was never going to win. Then, he despatched the pass into feet for Milito. Finally, he got himself level with Milito and into the box, forcing Martin Demichelis to track him, rather than ’sweeping’ behind van Buyten. All this may sound fairly basic, but it is partly the fact that Eto’o is a forward playing out wide that helped him hold off the challenge, and then have the determination to get himself into the box. A winger may not have done the same.”
“Creating such a successful side with so many new recruits is a remarkable achievement, as is managing to transform goal-hungry forwards like Eto’o and Pandev into hard-workers defensively, even if some will complain that this is robbing the world of some exciting attacking play. But Mourinho’s brief was to win the Champions League, and he has done that,” the site added in reference to the tactical genius of Inter’s Portuguese-born manager Jose Mourinho.
After a few days of recess, Eto’o will join his team-mates of the national team who have already started preparations for the FIFA World Cup that opens in South Africa on 11 June.
Many fans hope he will be an inspiration to lead the team to glory on African soil and expect to see the Eto’o who is a free-scoring lead striker although he has been used on the left of a three-man forward line-up since Paul Le Guen took over as manager of Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions in July 2010.