Samuel Eto'o's Chelsea U-turn Shows Jose Mourinho's True Greatness
It is said first impressions count for everything. But do they? Samuel Eto'o's U-turn where Jose Mourinho and Chelsea are concerned tells us otherwise.
"The story between Jose and myself was hatred," explained Eto'o in an interview for BBC Sport this week. "But it has become love, with a lot of respect."
Since Eto'o joined Chelsea from Anzhi Makhachkala last month, we've heard much of this rhetoric in the face of constant reminders of the Cameroon star's previous declaration that he would “rather sell groundnuts in [his] village than to play for a pathetic team like Chelsea" (via The Telegraph).
That particular comment from Eto'o came following Chelsea's progress in the Champions League at Barcelona's expense in 2005, a game itself filled with so much controversy it continues to fuel the fires of rivalry between both clubs.
Barca were not happy with the perceived antics of Chelsea that season. Mourinho had caused a storm when he accused then manager Frank Rijkaard of underhand tactics with referee Anders Frisk during the first leg, while an alleged foul on Victor Valdes from Ricardo Carvalho ensured the return fixture at Stamford Bridge ended with its own fireworks as Chelsea won 4-2, clinching a 5-4 aggregate victory.
With all that happened and the animosity it created, Eto'o would have probably felt justified in his sentiments. But working under Mourinho at Inter Milan, his perspective was soon changed.
"Before meeting at Inter, we didn't know each other personally, so our relationship was tense," Eto'o explained in The Sun newspaper (via Daily Mail), echoing the thoughts from his BBC interview. "I even said one time that I'd never play for a club where Jose was coach.
"But God knows best. He wanted to show me that I was wrong and today Jose is a friend. Now he's my coach again."
Indeed he is, and that's the genius of Mourinho.
Wherever the Portuguese's travels have taken him, he has been lauded by those who have worked under him.
Despite all that happened at Real Madrid last term, publicly falling out with Iker Casillas and other Los Blancos stars, Eto'o has been his biggest challenge to date.
Whereas the likes of Maniche and Vitor Baia at Porto and Frank Lampard and John Terry at Chelsea became Mourinho converts with a clean slate and free of prejudice, the history between him and his latest acquisition at Stamford Bridge has tested his ability to its fullest.
How to turn hatred into love? It's a difficult one, not exactly that of biblical proportions, water into wine stuff, but impressive nonetheless.
His friendship with Eto'o remains an incredible turnaround—one in which we're reminded of Mourinho's greatness.
In working with a player, who by his own admission had hated him, Mourinho demonstrated the impression of his ability as a coach, a great man manager, is no myth.
He made a believer out of Eto'o, a character who himself has come in for criticism of his own throughout his career.
He massaged his echo in the process no doubt, but he more than that, he integrated him into a fine Inter Milan team that would briefly dominate Europe. It wasn't like his time at Barcelona, but Eto'o saw enough to understand it didn't have to be, that Mourinho's philosophy works equally well.
And here Eto'o is, eight years or so down the line after his Barca comments, preparing for his Chelsea debut.
Will he become a Blues legend? Who knows, but one thing is for certain is that his presence at Stamford Bridge reinforces Mourinho's.
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