Former Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o says his ex-Blaugrana teammate Andres Iniesta is the greatest player he ever shared a dressing-room with throughout his career.
Now 38 and recently retired, the LaLiga Santander Ambassador spent five seasons as a teammate of Iniesta’s at the Camp Nou, winning 10 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions Leagues, in the process.
The former Cameroon international says that naming current Blaugrana captain Lionel Messi would be too easy, and Iniesta’s technical ability was just amazing.
“I shared a dressing-room with many great players,” Eto’o said. “If I have to choose one I would say Iniesta. He impressed me from the first day… Messi is obviously from another planet so we can put him aside. But Iniesta made me say ‘wow… hats off’.”
Eto’o scored 162 LaLiga goals in 280 LaLiga games during over a decade playing in Spain for Espanyol, Real Madrid, Leganes, RCD Mallorca and Barça.
“I feel proud of what I achieved but at the same time happy to be able to rest and enjoy myself with my wife and children,” he says following his retirement in September. “The best moment of my career was my debut. You have a lot of ambition; your eyes are opened.”
Raised in Mkon, a suburb of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, Eto’o had already made his full senior international debut before his first LaLiga game for Madrid aged just 17 in December 1998, but he really came to prominence after joining Mallorca in January 2000. His 54 goals in 128 games for the Balearic Islanders included a double strike in a 3-0 victory over Recreativo de Huelva in the 2003 Copa del Rey final.
“I reached my top-level when at Mallorca,” he says. “We were a group of normal guys who had to compete against the great players at Real Madrid and Barcelona. But we did it very well, we were proud of defending our jersey and our island.”
Summer 2004 brought Eto’o to Barcelona, where he scored 108 in 144 appearances over five seasons, winning three LaLiga titles, plus the LaLiga top scorer award in 2005/06.
“At Barcelona it was about opening the eyes of the world, making it known that a kid coming from where I came from when given the same opportunities as the others, could do well,” he says. “It was tough at Mallorca but when I got to Barcelona I saw that we could not fail, we were a group of unbelievable players and we just had to win. It was a unique time, we were up against a unique Real Madrid side, with the galacticos.”
Always keen for a new challenge, Eto’o also played in Italy [Inter Milan and Sampdoria], Russia [Anzhi], England [Chelsea and Everton] and Turkey [Antalyaspor and Konyaspor], before finishing his playing career earlier this year at Qatar SC. He also won the African Cup of Nations in 2000 and 2002 with Cameroon and won a Gold medal with his country at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
Eto’o has now set his eyes on a new challenge: coaching a team at the highest level, perhaps ‘his’ RCD Mallorca, who returned to LaLiga Santander for the 2019/20 campaign.
“Now I want to prepare for new challenges,” he says. “I love football so I would like someday to be able to coach at the highest level. It could be ‘my’ Mallorca or some other big team. I have had the fortune to win things as a player, and I would like to do that again as a coach.”
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