5 Bold Predictions for Samuel Eto'o's Everton Career

Ed Dove@EddydoveContributor IIISeptember 2, 2014

5 Bold Predictions for Samuel Eto'o's Everton Career

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    Once Liverpool secured the signing of Mario Balotelli, the path was cleared for local rivals Everton to step in to secure a move for free agent Samuel Eto’o.

    The Cameroon striker was released by Chelsea in the summer, following his first season in the Premier League. Numerous clubs were linked with a move for the experienced forward, per The Mirror, but he ended up heading to Goodison Park on a two-year deal.

    In this article we look into the future and outline what Toffees fans can expect from their new recruit.

Goals, Glorious Goals

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    It only took Eto’o a handful of minutes to find the net on his Everton debut. Toffees fans can expect the Cameroon forward to be among the goals regularly this coming season.

    Admittedly, he’s past his prime, and he won’t be darting about as speedily as he once did, but Eto’o remains a supreme penalty-box operator.

    Last season, Jose Mourinho criticised his team’s goal threat, but the former Internazionale hitman still managed nine goals in only 16 Premier League starts and contributed three goals in five starts in the Champions League.

    He has scored consistently throughout his career and remains the all-time top scorer for both Mallorca and Cameroon.

    I am backing Eto’o not only to continue his goalscoring this season but also to make double figures for the Toffees this campaign.

A Man for the Big Occasion

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    Last season, for the Pensioners, Eto’o managed to score crucial goals against Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. He also bagged a hat-trick against Manchester United and, when all eyes were on Didier Drogba in Chelsea’s Champions League battle with Galatasaray, it was the former Cameroon international that scored the goal that changed the complexion of the contest.

    Eto’o is a man for the big occasion.

    It’s not just at Chelsea that he proved this attribute. The Indomitable Lion is a three-time Champions League winner and was the Man of the Match in the 2006 final.

    He also scored in the 2009 final.

    Similarly, he scored in the final of both the 2000 Olympics and the African Cup of Nations in the same year—both competitions that Cameroon won.

    Everton will certainly need every ounce of Eto’o’s nous and aptitude for the big occasion should they achieve their goals this season.

    Particularly in the Europa League, where the prize of Champions League qualification now greets the winner, Martinez will turn to the West African legend—watch Eto’o emerge as the hero on one or two big European nights for the Toffees this term.

Broadening Everton's Options

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    While Eto’o will typically be used—one suspects—as a replacement No. 9 should Romelu Lukaku (or even Arouna Kone, remember him?) be missing, the player is a much more versatile operator than many other strikers.

    His finishing and penalty-box movement remains of the highest level, but Eto’o also demonstrated at Chelsea—sporadically—his ability to link play and to support his fellow forwards.

    As noted by Adam Bate of Sky Sports, the forward had a great effect on Eden Hazard in particular at Chelsea last season.

    Bate noted, “While Hazard netted nine goals in just 1,171 minutes—equating to 26 goals over a full Premier League season—with Eto’o on the pitch with him, that dropped to just five in 1,725 minutes without the veteran. That equates to only 10 goals a season.”

    He can also operate in wider positions, although is unlikely to fulfil his obligations on the flank with quite as much aplomb and discipline as he did at Internazionale under Jose Mourinho back in 2010.

    A more viable alternative, particularly next season, might be Eto’o in a deeper role in midfield. Certainly, this negates his talent as a poacher, but it would allow the forward to put his decent eye for a pass and admirable appreciation of space to good use.

    It is an approach that has been trialed with Cameroon but which may prove to be unworkable in the physical environment of the Premier League.

Cameo Performances

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    Adjectives and jam are effective when used briefly and intelligently, but their impact is reduced when they are overused.

    I expect Roberto Martinez is aware of this evident reality and knows that it applies to Samuel Eto’o as well.

    There is both little incentive to use Eto’o regularly and, perhaps, little merit to be found from doing so.

    In £28 million man Romelu Lukaku, Everton have a player who will surely lead the line this season and (they hope) will do so for years to come. Only an injury or a major goal-drought would lead to Eto’o replacing the young gun in the starting line-up.

    Similarly, Eto’o is now 33, and while he is in great shape, he is unlikely to be able to keep up with Everton’s packed schedule this term (the Blues are currently competing on four fronts).

    Expect him to be introduced in crucial moments—20 minutes here, 10 minutes there; the final stages of a Merseyside derby, or midway through the second half of a tight Europa League match with Lille or Wolfsburg.

    This will keep the player hungry and ensure that Martinez is getting maximum impact out of the veteran striker.

A Smattering of Controversy

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    Throughout his career, Eto’o has been no stranger to controversial situations.

    Earlier this year his Chelsea career came to an end following a very public dispute with Jose Mourinho. Admittedly, the manager was the initial protagonist, publicly questioning the player’s age, but Eto’o didn’t shy away from conflict and delivered a very visual demonstration of what he thought of the manager’s comments.

    He has regularly made the headlines in Cameroon due to his confrontations with the national football federation, while in Russia, with Anzhi Makhachkala, he appeared to be a player motivated by money rather than by a desire to test himself in one of Europe’s major leagues.

    Then again, who am I to criticise a three-time La Liga champion and a three-time Champions League winner!?

    Martinez, speaking to Sky Sports, has praised the striker for the contribution he can make in the dressing room, saying:

    He wants to still learn and push himself and for the players around him, he is going to be a really good example. He feels ready to do that – he is at an age and moment of his career where he is ready to pass messages on. But he is still as hungry as ever to reach good individual targets and do whatever he can for the team.

    Here at Bleacher Report, we’re not completely convinced.

    One would think that, as an elder-statesman, Eto’o would be keen to lead by example and would put the silly business behind him. Sadly, over the last few years, it hasn’t always would be the case.

    It would be a surprise if Everton were to enjoy two controversy-free seasons with the Indomitable Lion.