Samuel Eto’o: “In Spain most of the clubs are not elegant” thumbnail

Samuel Eto’o: “In Spain most of the clubs are not elegant”

Samuel Eto’o during his time at the World Football Summit, at Wanda.Jesus Alvarez / AS

The Gucci leather jacket and cap do not camouflage the unmistakable demeanor of Samuel Eto’o (Nkongsamba, Cameroon, 1981) and his attentive gaze continues to fixate on his interlocutor almost with the same force as when he was a teenager on loan from Real Madrid in Leganés. The man has attended the World Football Summit, the international football congress held this week in Wanda, to announce his candidacy for the presidency of the Cameroon federation. Perhaps inflamed by that sense of representation, he speaks in the majestic plural.

Question. What was your first salary as a footballer spent on?

Answer. I gave almost 95% to my mother.

P. You are the only player who won the League, Cup and Champions triplet, with two different coaches. He is the only one who also performed at the highest level with Guardiola and Mourinho. And he is the only African who has won three Champions. What does this suggest to you?

R. It is a privilege to have served football and to have been under the command of Pep and José when they started and to have won with both of them. I have also been very lucky to have incredible teammates. More than the trophies we win, I am proud of the friendship we retain. This is worth more than everything to me.

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P. But why only you among millions of Africans?

R. I have never looked at it from a geographical point of view. I am just a gamer. I wasn’t interested in where it came from. He was an important player for many. Only performance mattered.

P. Isn’t it more difficult for Africans? They must change continent, culture, language, and face professionalism in greater solitude than the rest.

R. That is why we are entering the world of football as leaders. To change all that. African footballers experience many difficulties and South Americans as well. FIFA is changing very important things. This requires federation presidents who are willing to act so that players have more rights. When the Africans and South Americans who play in Europe go with the national team, we do more kilometers than anyone else. And when they return to their clubs they ask them to perform like Europeans. You have to even things out so that the players perform better. We must promote football in our continents to raise the level. Today to have a good career you have to emigrate to Europe. Why does it always have to be this way? We have to organize football in Africa better, be more competitive.

P. Before you nines they specialized more in finishing in the area. With you the characteristics of the strikers began to change. Would Cristiano have been impossible without Eto’o?

R. I do not know. Cristiano and Messi are marking an era. Reaching that level will be very difficult for those who come. I suffer for this generation that comes after them because they have put football at a very high level.

I have studied International Trade at university, it is what moves the world

P. The nine area is in crisis?

R. If I look at football as a coach, I see that they are looking for faster players, more complete in everything, who move more to give the team more possibilities. Let’s go to that.

P. No one has ever had your travel speed under braking and changing direction. At what point did you realize that these off-the-ball runs could give you a gigantic advantage?

R. When you get to a team you have to first identify your teammates and understand how each one plays. It is my teammates who give me the opportunity to do these movements. Everything I did was based on them. I adapted to his game. I gave them that uncheck and the ball reached me where I wanted because I already knew how they wanted to play. My training sessions were based on the game of Ibagaza, Deco, Sneijder, Xavi …

P. Most of the forwards, Raúl, Ibrahimovic, Del Piero, Suárez… support the entire sole of the foot when running. You ran on your fingertips.

R. Like an athlete. Because as a child in Africa we all started by running, and then we got into soccer. I did speed tests. It doesn’t change much. Short steps sometimes give you an advantage in short spaces. Running on the balls of your feet gives you more advantages to change direction. As I am not very tall, that more or less low center of gravity helped me turn without risking injury.

P. What have you done since you left football?

R. I went to university and after three years I got a diploma in International Trade, which is what moves the world. I finished two months ago. In Lyon. I wanted to finish at Harvard but with covid-19 it was quite complicated.

P. You are rich. Why did you study when you could hire experts?

R. I am rich because I have many friends and a lot of knowledge. Knowledge makes us bigger because it opens doors for us that we didn’t have. For that we send our children to school. There are wisdoms that can only be acquired by studying. I have met others playing soccer and meeting different people and cultures, but going to university I had not had.

Running on the balls of my feet is something I acquired as a child in track and field. Then in football he gave me advantages in changes of direction

P. And what do you want to do with this knowledge?

R. I want to make my modest contribution to the world, so that the world is better, so that Africa grows and Africans live better.

P. The academy of its foundation has produced nine international players with Cameroon. What other retired footballers have that record?

R. When you’re up there you have to think about replacement. We are so selfish that we think only of ourselves. What I wanted to do is that Cameroon always have a relay.

P. You in the field were thinking very fast. When the ball reached him, he had already seen the play. Did that work it?

R. That is anticipation. It is the intelligence that each one has. Each one has its quality, its way of reading football and its way of improving it. I have always been a curious boy. I have loved and I love football so much that I always wanted to have a second more than the others. Because soccer is like that. Thank God that has helped me to be what I was.

P. What is the quality that you like the most about Mbappé?

R. He has everything to be the player he wants to be. He is fast, intelligent, he has a goal. Is young. Now everything depends on him.

P. At Bayern, Chelsea or City, everyone helps each other. Each player runs for himself and for the partner next to him. Is it possible to build a team like PSG, in which it seems that each one specializes in their sector?

R. In all teams each partner does something for the others. Then there is the capacity of each. They said to me: ‘Samuel, I can’t run like you run.’ I did 13 or 14 kilometers per game. And so happy. I didn’t get tired. Others cannot. Each one contributes what they can, but they all do something for their colleagues. This is not tennis.

P. Do you see that solidarity in this PSG?

R. I saw Messi, Neymar and Mbappé defending against Lyon. But if you ask me if Neymar can defend like Kimpembe, I’ll tell you no, it’s impossible. I saw them against Lyon and I saw them quite well, defending, looking for each other, creating opportunities for teammates. When you have a team like this, your future can be incredible. It is a dream.

P. What has happened in the Barça so that it falls so low?

R. Except for Italians, most clubs are not fancy. The fault is not of the clubs but of the people. They are personal matters. When you see how the players of the Italian or English clubs come out, everything is more elegant. In Spain the problem is that management is approached in a personal way.

P. Is it a cultural problem?

R. I do not know. Because when you put culture in, you put in a lot more people.

P. Legend has it that Majachkalá’s Anzhi paid him 30 million euros before signing him.

R. Whoever says that didn’t know anything.

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