Chelsea were never going to get the best of Samuel Eto'o. As the Premier League season comes to a close, the Cameroonian's limitations have been confirmed by Jose Mourinho—initially through a leaked, private conversation, via Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph, and secondly by the Portuguese manager's sudden loss of faith in his veteran striker.
The relationship between the pair appears to have drastically changed across the past couple of weeks. It began with Mourinho's belittlement of Eto'o to the chief of Swiss watch manufacturer Hublot.
"The problem with Chelsea is I lack a scorer," Mourinho said. "I have Eto'o but he is 32 years old, maybe 35, who knows," he was quoted as saying by Canal Plus (via ESPN FC).
Although Eto'o responded maturely to this jab, via ESPN FC, saying he can "still score goals at 35-36 years old," his momentum at Stamford Bridge hit a major snag. A regular starter since the onset of 2014, Eto'o has been unceremoniously dropped in the aftermath of Mourinho's comments.
He played just 22 minutes during the Champions League draw with Galatasaray, while he didn't even make it onto the bench for the Blues' 3-0 win over Fulham on March 1.
Fernando Torres' return from injury will certainly have played its part, but now that Mourinho has accidentally acknowledged Eto'o's limitations in the public sphere, he has tried to justify the misstep by halting the former Inter Milan star's influence on the pitch.
So much so, Eto'o's former club are said to be readying themselves for a summer swoop, per Paul Collins of the Mail Online:
"Inter Milan have added Chelsea's Samuel Eto'o and Tottenham's Etienne Capoue to their shopping list as owner Erick Thohir splashes the cash to try and bring back the club's glory days," reads the report.
While Eto'o may prove savvy enough to help Inter regain former glory, he is not the same player Mourinho worked with during a trophy-laden era at the San Siro. Despite trying to aid Chelsea's title charge with plenty of running, the forward has succumbed to age and a lack of intensity—brought on during his time at Anzhi Makhachkala.
Eto'o appears weightier than when he left Italy, a factor that has impacted his speed and rapid acceleration. He rarely shies away from working hard, and the extra bulk has certainly aided his ability to hold up the ball, but he is now functional rather than lethal.
His six goals in 17 Premier League games is a modest return, especially when three of those were gifted against a hapless Manchester United side. The African star completes just 0.8 dribbles per match and is dispossessed 1.8 times each game, as recorded by WhoScored.com. Considering just 75.4 percent of his passes hit their intended mark, Eto'o's burlier style perhaps amplifies his sloppiness.
Mourinho is developing his team into a cohesive unit that works together across the entire pitch. Full-blooded attacks are often launched from the wings, providing Eto'o time to find space in the centre, while the team quickly drops if on the back foot.
There's no room for ill discipline. Eto'o is willing to work hard and isn't a slacker when it comes to effort, but Chelsea need more. They need a striker who can fulfil a battering-ram role without the workload detracting from his ability to score goals.
Mourinho possessed this during his first tenure with Didier Drogba, and he will perhaps push Romelu Lukaku to do the same when he returns from Everton.
Eto'o's Chelsea career was only ever going to be a stopgap. He was brought in to score goals and provide the team with an effective attacking outlet, something he has struggled to regularly achieve. Even so, few would have predicted the player's historic relationship with Mourinho to crumble so spectacularly.
Although he says otherwise, it must be disheartening for Eto'o to have his flaws pointed out by someone he has enjoyed a successful relationship with. Mourinho's accidental soundbite ensures a level of trust is now gone and is unlikely to ever return.