Can Samuel Eto’o be the king of Internazionale again?
These days, it’s hard to be taken seriously in Serie A without a marquee striker.
Juventus pack in Carlos Tevez, AC Milan parade Mario Balotelli, Napoli flaunt Gonzalo Higuain and even Fiorentina boast Mario Gomez. Where does that leave Inter? A cut below the rest, apparently.
While young Mauro Icardi and Ishak Belfodil are seeds to be planted and watered, they don’t exactly inspire the same confidence established forwards in teams further up the Serie A beanstalk do.
Enter the fallen giant’s links with former treble-veteran Samuel Eto’o, an integral member of the team that once swept all before them in Italy and Europe. Indeed, while his subsequent €27 million move to Anzhi Makhachkala coincided with the fast-receding memory of that historic Champions League triumph in 2010, a return might yet put his old club back on the football map.
“Eto’o would happily come back, but these are difficult times. We are talking about it,” his agent revealed on Saturday. “What I can guarantee is that Inter and [president] Massimo Moratti remain in his heart.”
The 32-year-old opting to swap Italy for the lucrative Russian expanses in 2011 was not a love lost amongst the Nerazzurri faithful, but it did leave a gaping hole in their hearts, as three coaching changes in the disastrous campaign to follow left the club languishing sixth.
Now with Walter Mazzarri installed at the helm, presumably for the long haul, talk of Eto’o rejoining Inter ties in nicely with rumours the coach is seeking proven additions upfront. Despite seeing Ricky Alvarez’s prospects resuscitated after pairing him with Rodrigo Palacio in an attack without traditional strikers this summer, what Sunday’s 2-0 win against Genoa only helped confirm was Inter function better with a focal point to spearhead a breakthrough.
And let’s face it, what would any Mazzarri team be without a classic, bang-in-goals-for-fun type of striker?
After presiding over the rich form enjoyed by Giampaolo Pazzini and Edinson Cavani at Sampdoria and Napoli respectively, it is impossible not to acknowledge the Italian’s penchant for entrusting an individual with the entirety of a side’s goal-scoring burden, someone responsible for sweeping home lightning-quick attacks.
Eto’o packs a Serie A record (where he mustered 37 goals for Inter in a single season alone) that elevates him as an undisputed member of that elite standing amongst strikers. Presently, only injured ex-treble comrade Diego Milito fits such a bill at Appiano Gentile.
Granted, the Cameroon international dropped off the international radar at Anzhi, but he has lost none of the potency that so characterised his time at the pinnacle of the European game. Still powerful, direct and lethal in front of goal, Eto’o is a signing that will take Inter to another plain.
Bristling with a winning mentality and sheer strength of mind, willing to toil deeper and out of position if need be, the legendary campaigner’s return to Inter will not only furnish further technical options immediately tailored to Mazzarri’s tactical blueprint, but inject conviction, belief and leadership into a fledgling side eager to discover the reaches of its developing powers.
Obviously, Inter will not be paying peanuts for a man who earned upwards of €20m a year, but it’s really only bad business off the pitch, not on it. When the four-time African Player of the Year’s scoring statistics are allowed to speak for themselves, Moratti, or prospective investor Erick Thohir, is in for a great buy – a signing that will enrich the team in manners calculated beyond mere euros and cents.
Bringing back their former talisman may not suffice as an economical measure, but can remain a strong indication of the Milan outfit’s ambitions nevertheless. If Inter can somehow convince Eto’o to snub the allure of Chelsea and the Premier League for one final bow in front of an adoring curva this summer, they stand to simultaneously snare their dream of making it back up into the big time that much faster.
Follow Jeremy Lim on Twitter: @JLCalcio