Samuel Eto’o is determined to help end Everton FC’s 20-year trophy drought – while also adding the Europa League to his glittering cv.
The Blues striker has bagged an astonishing array of domestic and European honours during his star-studded career, but a winner’s medal in Uefa’s second-tier competition has so far eluded him.
Eto’o, 33, wants to put that right by firing Roberto Martinez’s men all the way to a Europa League triumph in Warsaw in May, and in the process reward the club’s “incredible” travelling support.
Watch: Greg O’Keefe discusses Samuel Eto’o
He said: “My goal is clear. I came here to help this club win things and the Europa League is a big one. I have never won it.
“The fans here are incredible – 7,000 at least went to Lille. They followed us to Russia. The only thing I want to say to them is that I will always give them the best of myself. I will do everything to get results and give them pride.”
Former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan goal-scorer Eto’o is loving life at Goodison Park, where he is on course to make the 15 appearances required this term to earn another 12 months to his current one-year contract.
“It’s been very good and I’m settling really well,” he said. “I’m just happy to be playing football. Are fans seeing the best Samuel Eto’o? It depend what you call the best.
“I can’t go back to being 20-years-old. What I am sure about is that I will always give 100 per cent on the pitch and also help my teammates to score and do great things on the pitch so that the fans will be satisfied, not only with me but the whole team.”
After being released by Chelsea in the summer, the former Cameroon international met with several manager at top European clubs before opting to sign for Everton.
But asked what he said to convince Martinez he still had the necessary hunger to make an impact despite having three Champions League winners medals among his surplus of achievements, he is clearly irked.
Samuel Eto’o celebrates scoring the opener at Burnley
“It’s incredible that people still ask me this. Before I met with Roberto there were a lot of other clubs who wanted to speak with me and ask me to sign for them. “The question was always: are you still hungry for victory?
“Even when I’m old and retired I will always want to win. I’ll still want to play football.
“Being in a stadium playing the game at the top level – it makes me happy. But even when it’s all over and I play with my friends back home I will still want to win. Always. Why would I not enjoy playing football? I adore it. It’s my passion – something which brings me so much pleasure.”
That drive to continue pushing himself was reflected in Eto’o’s disappointment at not scoring a hat-trick at Burnley last Sunday, when he was denied a third by the post.
“Yes I was a little upset to not get the third goal,” he admits. “When you have an opportunity for a hat-trick in football you have to take it. I tried and I was angry not to get it.
“It’s not just about my performances, it’s about the whole team. Even if I score two and the opposition score four I’m sure the fasn wouldn’t be happy.”
Everton’s Samuel Eto’o celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the Barclays Premier League match at Turf Moor, Burnley. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 26, 2014. See PA story SOCCER Burnley. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. Editorial use only. Maximum 45 images during a match. No video emulation or promotion as ‘live’. No use in games, competitions, merchandise, betting or single club/player services. No use with unofficial audio, video, data, fixtures or club/league logos.
Romelu Lukaku scored Everton’s second goal at Turfmoor, and revealed afterwards that he is thriving under Eto’o’s tutelage. The 21-year-old explained how the older man challenges him to shooting contests after every training session, with the loser having to do extra sprints.
“There is nothing more beautiful than sharing my experience,” adds Eto’o.
“It’s a motivation between us. I don’t like to lose.
“Even if I’m going to help him I’ll make sure I win. But these competitions allow Rom to realise that the moment, the present, is really important in the work that we are doing. You must always be improving.”