Samuel Eto’o? That Samuel Eto’o? Old fella? Barca? Inter? Chelsea? Played at the ’98 World Cup? Might actually BE 98 now? Him?
The latest name linked with Liverpool wouldn’t have been predicted by many – although we’re not talking about you, Rihanna – but with widespread reports now claiming that Brendan Rodgers could turn to the apparently 33-year-old Eto’o in a bid to add more goals to his team, is it really that mad of a signing?
The Reds’ summer-long pursuit of a new forward has been incorrectly labelled from the start. There can be no ‘Replacement for Luis Suarez’ simply because the Uruguayan is a one-off, in so, so many ways. We should probably all be grateful for that.
No, Liverpool can’t replace Suarez, and so they are going to have to change the way they play.
The most likely alteration will see Daniel Sturridge start the vast majority of games upfront on his own, directly supported by three players. Against Southampton on Sunday they’ll probably be Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson, but there’s also Lazar Markovic, Jordon Ibe and Adam Lallana. Emre Can and Joe Allen can be pushed up there too, but crucially one of those will probably play deeper with Steven Gerrard in a bid to shore up last season’s costly leaks.
Rodgers has always favoured that one out-and-out forward system, and only changed his plans last season simply because Suarez and Sturridge were so good together. They caused chaos, both to opposition defences and sometimes their unprotected own. Sheer madness ensued, but that madness was a couple of steps away from producing the Premier League title.
But from having been the division’s wild animal last season, the Reds will have to be a lot more careful this time around.
Jose Mourinho and Chelsea provided everyone with a blueprint of how to counteract Rodgers’ Liverpool in the infamous Anfield meeting at the end of April, and so devising plans to get past packed defences should be priority No. 1 for the Reds manager, at least now he’s bought half of a new back four anyway.
Rodgers’ team will need to be smarter, so they bought Lallana, quicker, so they bought Markovic, and have an experienced backup plan, so they bought Rickie Lambert. The Scouser will try his heart out for the club he loves, but you do have to worry about whether or not this will all be too much for him. At some point he has to stop being the player who made his way back to Liverpool after being released 17 years ago, and start being a top level Premier League and Champions League forward.
Eto’o has been one of those for about 107 years. Well, about 17 actually but who’s counting?
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Despite the frequent barbs about his age, sometimes from his own manager, he still managed to score 12 goals in all competitions for Chelsea last season, a total that would be perfect for Liverpool if the likes of Sterling, Coutinho and Henderson follow their manager’s orders and bulge the back of the net more often. Lallana, Markovic and Lambert will contribute too, whilst Fabio Borini is still avoiding Gus Poyet’s calls and so is still a Liverpool player.
The most incredible thing about those Eto’o goals last season was that they were almost always terrible. Deflected strikes or efforts bobbling into the corner of the net. They were about as different to Suarez’s frequently stunning strikes as it is possible to be.
However it was Eto’o’s often imperceptible movement which made those chances. His clever occupation of a space and a defender making it possible for him to get just enough room to score – exactly as he did against Martin Skrtel and Liverpool in December. Those types of runs could be crucial against the packed defences Liverpool will face.
That movement hasn’t left those ageing legs just yet, and so whilst clearly the Cameroonian wasn’t his first-choice this summer and might still just be being viewed as a backup plan – Wilfried Bony was being talked up again last week, whilst the remaining three weeks will probably see another 42 names linked with the Reds – you can at least see why Rodgers has an apparent interest in him, can’t you?
And why the possibility of him being the first signing of the post-Rihanna rumour Liverpool isn’t that mad, especially not when you consider the competition.
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