After completing a 25 million Euro move to Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala Samuel Eto’o will become the highest paid player in World football earning a reported 21 million Euros per year. He is not the first and he wil not be the last player to move to a ‘lesser’ league in order to acquire large sums of money. Robbie Keane recently with the MLS, Cannavaro and many others moving to the Middle East. What is striking about Eto’o's however move is that he is still relatively so young and also still so talented. Keane is considered to be at the end of his career when he joined Galaxy and Cannavaro was also 36, hardly two players in their prime.
At just 30 he still has a good few years left in him playing at a high level as can be seen by his impressive 21 goal tally in last seasons Serie A. If he fancied a new challenge there would have been flocks of clubs queuing up to sign the Cameroonian with Man City reportedly interested in a swap deal involving Carlos Tevez at one stage. But even City would have probably gasped at the £350,000 a week plus salary that Eto’o will be earning in Russia.
A look back at Eto’os career paints the picture of a player who must surely be remembered as one of the greatest strikers in modern history, a player who boasts a trophy cabinet that is equally as impressive as his goal scoring record. During his illustrious playing career he amassed 3 La Liga titles, 2 Cop Del Rey titles, 1 Serie A title, 2 Copa Italia’s and a remarkable 3 Champions League medals. As well as this Eto’o also experienced relative success with Cameroon winning 2 African Nations medals and one Olympic Gold medal. In terms of goals scored Eto’o boasts a prolific 250 goals in 469 games at club level, as well as 50 in 105 for country, making him Cameroons all time top scorer. On a personal note he has also been named African Player of The Year 4 times.
The contrast between player and club being staggering’ with Anzhi only managing a modest 11th place finish in Russia’s top league last term and also having spent large periods of time in Russia’s lower divisions. Since the clubs founding in 1992 the club has only spent a total of 4 seasons in the top flight.
So why did Eto’o make the move? The move will be viewed by many observers as an act of mercenary from a player who still had some good years left ahead of him. As previously stated Eto’o will become the highest paid player in World football and according to some reports in World sport. Eto’o will reportedly earn more than NFL quarter back Peyton Manning and Baseball icon Alex Rodriquez.
Especially in the context that Eto’o has previously , correctly lamented the levels of racism he recieved in Barcelona and in Milan. Whilst with Barcelona the racism was so much that Eto’o stopped allowing his family to watch him during away games, Eto’o said of this ‘”It is something that has affected me personally. I think players, leaders, and the media have to join forces so that no one feels looked down upon because of the colour of their skin. At this moment in time I prefer my children don’t go to football matches. In the stands they have to listen to things that are difficult to explain to a child. It is better they aren’t exposed to it.” Yet he has moved to a country that is notorious for wide spread racism and will no doubt himself be subjected to it, as well as his family, his new team-mate Roberto Carlos himself has been the victim of such prejudice having had banana’s thrown at him in previous matches. With this in mind it adds further credence to the view that Eto’o solely joined for money and also raises questions about whether it was wise to move to a country with such big racial problems.
Eto’o before has had problems at clubs he has played out reportedly having a big fall out with Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola which was what forced his move to Inter Milan. There were reports that came out of Italy that Eto’o had a preseason fall out with the clubs new boss Gasperini, something that he later denied. Eto’o has never been shy of controversy in this regard and at Anzhi with the huge wage he has been offered he’ll surely be the centre of attention and thus will be likely be assured the freedom to do what he likes from the chairman which is something that probably attracted Eto’o to the move as well as the huge wage.
It seems that the only obvious motivation for Eto’o is the huge salary on offer, but it is a shame that a player of his quality will effectively end his career by making such a move. At City perhaps players like Robinho could talk about an exciting project that they were joining, but Anzhi only have a small 20,000 seater stadium and are in an area that is politicaly unstable with Islamic insurgents currnetly in control. As a result of this all players live and train in Moscow to avoid the threat of terrorist attacks and potential shootings. For a player used to living it up in Milan and Barcelona other than the vast sums of money on offer the project at Anzhi does not appear on the face of it attractive at all.
But can we really expect someone to turn down the chance to become the World’s top paid player?For ordinary people it is the norm to change careers in order to earn more money regardless of loyalty to their previous company, albeit the loyalty ties in football run far deeper and are far more complex. If Eto’o and Zhirkov alike manage to bring about success for Anzhi both domestically and in Europe the move will be vindicated. Time will only tell how Eto’o and Anzhi will perform and adapt to life in Russia. Rumors are circulating that Eto’o and his family will have access to a private jet allowing them to reside in either Milan or Barcelona to make sure that they are comfortable. What is a shame is that such a fine player will no longer be gracing the Champions League with his presence, at least not for this season.