As a fan of Inter Milan I have been spoiled over the last two seasons. This has nothing to do with the treble winning year of 2009-2010, or the 2010 Club World Cup.
It has to do with having the opportunity to watch one player game in and game out. A player that was thrown in as a spare part when Ibrahimovic was sold to Barcelona. A player who many perceive to be simply a goal scorer even though he had 22 assists to go with his 53 goals in two seasons at Inter. A player who has to be mentioned when discussing the top players in the World.
Simply put: Samuel Eto'o is a world class footballer.
I feel foolish because I took Eto'o for granted. How quickly I forgot that he almost dragged Inter kicking and screaming to a sixth consecutive Serie A title last year. When he was sold to Anzhi this summer, although disappointed, I thought any combination of Forlan, Pazzini, Milito and Zarate up front, with Sneijder pulling the strings in the midfield, could fill the void. While the major issues this season have been on the defensive end, the team has lacked cohesion, creativity and finish in the final third of the pitch.
With each new year comes speculation that this will be the year his numbers drop off, yet in just 13 games at Anzhi this year he has notched 8 goals. But Eto'o does more than just score goals, and it is this versatility which makes him so valuable. Play him up front with other strikers and he draws in defenders opening up space for teammates. Play him alone up top and he torments defenders with his pace.
It wasn't until talking to my man Chuck about how undervalued a player he is, that I looked up his stats last season. Lost in the hype surrounding Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney was the fact that Eto'o tallied 37 goals and 15 assists in 53 appearances last year, both personal bests. These numbers are even more impressive when you consider he plays against stifling defenses in the Serie A, while Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney pad their numbers in the more free-flowing leagues in Spain and England.
The Bottom line: Samuel Eto'o is an underrated and under appreciated world-class footballer. Don't believe me; just ask any Inter fan.