It wasn’t so long ago he was described by his manager as a “gift from the footballing Gods”.
Now Samuel Eto’o could well be the gift that Everton FC are preparing to hastily re-wrap and pass on.
Sampdoria’s interest in the striker is ongoing, even if the ECHO understands that his Goodison exit is not as clean-cut and close as some are reporting.
Whether he is the equivalent of an expensive present which initially dazzled but quickly lost its lustre, or it is really the 33-year-old pressing for a return to Italy remains unclear.
But one thing is certain; Eto’o’s status has changed from October when Roberto Martinez waxed lyrical about having the the former Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan striker on-board.
Back then it seemed like the coup which ticked every box (not least blowing a raspberry at Liverpool who passed up the opportunity to sign him and opted for Mario Balotelli instead).
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Eto’o appeared to have an abundance of stamina despite those Jose Mourinho jibes about his age, and his goal-scoring instinct was still as deadly as ever. A brace at Burnley and a goal in Europa League action confirmed it.
But fast forward six weeks as Everton began to struggle, the question over who should play in the number 10 role behind Romelu Lukaku became more loaded, particularly when constant shuffling didn’t help.
Eto’o still had plenty to offer, even as the Blues slump worsened, and continued to start games until after the Newcastle defeat on December 28.
An unused substitute against Hull on New Year’s Day, he then came from the bench against West Ham in the original third round FA Cup tie.
Eto’o had to twiddle his thumbs against Manchester City last weekend, but if – and he hasn’t said so publicly – he is disgruntled about playing time, it’s hard to sympathise.
Martinez has used the veteran frequently.
The truth may be that Eto’o wants to return to Italy for personal reasons. He still has many friends in Milan, where some news outlets suggest Sampdoria would be prepared to let him reside and commute to Genoa.
Asked about the potential move on Tuesday, Martinez was fairly sanguine. He will, he said, assess what is best for Everton and Eto’o.
They might be two different things – and only one should really matter to the Blues boss.
Surely his conclusion on what suits Everton will be the experienced Cameroonian remaining on Merseyside until the summer at least.
The Toffees eggs for the 2014/15 campaign are stacked perilously high in a basket marked ‘Warsaw, May’. In truth, the Europa League is the only thing fans are clinging onto now.
Martinez could do worse than remind Eto’o of something he said in November.
“My goal is clear,” Eto’o told the ECHO. “I came here to help this club win things and the Europa League is a big one. I have never won it.”
It’s about the only trophy he hasn’t lifted.
Everton FC new signing Samuel Eto’o is paraded at Finch Farm in front of the media. Pictured with Manager Roberto Martinez as well.
But all his big-game experience, nous, and winning mentality could be invaluable if Everton are to truly push for the European glory which would rescue their season from the doldrums.
Martinez can be a persuasive character. After all, he talked Eto’o into picking Everton over bigger financial offers last summer.
He should exercise his charm again, and persuade the most decorated African player of all time to hold off saying ‘arrivederci’ for now.
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