Roma Move for Former Barcelona, Inter Striker Samuel Eto'o Would Be Major Gamble

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Roma Move for Former Barcelona, Inter Striker Samuel Eto'o Would Be Major Gamble
Fernando Llano/Associated Press

He's not the most obvious target for Rudi Garcia's Roma, but rumours persist linking the Giallorossi to Samuel Eto'o, the former Inter and Barcelona star who endured a disappointing campaign at Chelsea last season following a move from Anzhi Makhachkala in the summer. 

It's not just the Serie A side who want the Cameroonian, either, with Arsenal being linked with the forward as well. According to the player, clubs in six different countries have made enquires, namely Italy, Spain, France, England, Turkey and the United States. 

Roma's Walter Sabatini is one of the most astute transfer operators in the business, and his interest, coupled with that of clubs like Arsenal, suggests that the 33-year-old is far from finished, despite struggling under Jose Mourinho in London last term.

Many will be wondering if the once-prolific striker can rediscover his blistering form of old after a lucrative, but hardly competitive, two years in Russia and his one season at Stamford Bridge. 

Sabatini is better known for discovering young talent and there's no doubt that hiring an ageing superstar who hasn't shown his best form in years would be somewhat contrary to the way the Lupi have done business recently. That said, with a push for the Scudetto and Champions League football to think about, it would be dangerous to rely on too many inexperienced players and Roma probably need a couple of additions who are proven at the highest level if they're to win silverware. 

In that sense, once the price is right, Eto'o seems like the ideal fit. Fans at the Stadio Olimpico won't want him taking the place of Francesco Totti or Mattia Destro, but with league, cup and continental competitions to think about, Garcia needs more options up front.

Destro was brilliant toward the end of last season, most notably against Cagliari when he scored a memorable hat-trick, but the young Italian has had injury problems.

Totti, too, despite being integral to the squad will need to be protected if he's to stay fit, and Garcia will want to avoid a similar situation to last year, when the loss of Gervinho at the same time as his captain saw the Giallorossi fall flat in front of goal during a crucial period.

Adem Ljajic is an exciting prospect but is still learning his trade. Alessandro Florenzi, a crowd favourite, always promises industry in the final third, but the Roman is a wide player and unlikely to contribute the goals they'll need.

Another forward is needed. Given a fully fit squad, whoever comes in might not even play, but the manager needs back-up if he's to go one better than last year and end the capital club's 14-year wait for league glory. 

Like elsewhere on the pitch, at full-strength Roma already have a team more than capable of winning titles. But last year highlighted the importance of squad depth, because while there was no one to replace Gervinho, Destro or Totti when they were unfit, the timely arrival of Radja Nainggolan meant that even the loss of Kevin Strootman didn't derail Roma's brilliant midfield. 

Eto'o's wages will be a problem. He took an incredible £13 million cut to move to Chelsea, but that still left him on over £5 million a season with the Blues—more than the amount Serie A's current highest earner, Daniele De Rossi, takes home. 

Another stumbling block could be the striker's desire to properly perform. He has three Champions League medals and a slew of domestic titles, but Eto'o has done little since leaving Inter in 2011 and it's by no means certain that he could regain his best form even if he wants to. 

If he resists the temptation to follow other ageing superstars like Thierry Henry, Frank Lampard, David Villa and Kaka to the MLS, he's obviously not after the easy money.

There's a chance that, after a season of being heavily criticised by the media, fans and his own manager in England, the four-time African Player of the Year wants to prove one more time that he can still cut it at the highest level. That kind of motivation can only be a good thing. 

Roma have already had plenty of success gambling on other players that others had written off. Having been universally derided as a flop at Arsenal, Gervinho was reborn last year once reunited with Garcia and is once again among the most exciting forwards around.

Likewise, Maicon and Morgan De Sanctis, having both been deemed surplus to requirements at their old clubs and generally regarded as long past their best, both had stellar seasons and were crucial to one of the continent's most ruthless defences. 

Roma fans still haven't forgotten what a disaster signing another former force of nature up front was, and no one wants to see another Adriano lumbering hopelessly in front of goal at the Olimpico.

However, if Eto'o is hungry, he has the potential and the experience to be another unlikely success story for Roma and an important—if short-term—solution to their needs. He can provide immediate results and bridge the gap until the club's young stars properly come of age. 

There's an abundance of young attacking talent out there right now—as evidenced by the exciting and goal-heavy World Cup. But more youth could upset the balance that Garcia's found with his current squad, and another player in his early or mid-20s on a long contract isn't what they need on the bench.

The Giallorossi's best players are all tied to long contracts, and Sabatini is constantly on the look-out for future talent. The finishing touches to this squad don't need to be long-term, they need to have an instant impact.

Eto'o might not be the most obvious choice, and he's by no means a sure bet. But if he's healthy and hungry, and he comes at the right price, he's worth a gamble. 

 

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