As the Cameroon legend turns 40, Goal’s Ed Dove remembers the five matches that defined his career
Samuel Eto’o at 40
Samuel Eto’o turned 40 on Wednesday, prompting celebrations and tributes in the world of African for one of the continent’s all-time greats.
To honour Eto’o’s big day, Goal‘s Ed Dove remembers some of the matches that underpin the Cameroon icon’s legacy.
He is remembered as a big game player due to his impact in several high-profile games, but which were the fixtures, the moments and the goals that have truly helped the Central African striker establish himself as one of the continent’s true legends?
2006 Champions League Final
Eto’o started the 2006 final as part of a Barcelona front three containing Ludovic Giuly and Ronaldinho.
It’s serious quality, but it was still Eto’o who stole the show, equalising in the 76th minute following Sol Campbell’s opener for Arsenal after being played in by substitute Henrik Larsson.
The Swede would set up Juliano Belletti for the winner four minutes later as Eto’o, who was named Man of the Match in the final, became only the second Cameroon winner of European football’s grandest prize.
Africa Cup of Nations 2008
Laurent Pokou had been the Africa Cup of Nations top scorer of all time for 38 years before Eto’o took to the field at the 2008 tournament.
The Cote d’Ivoire legend scored 14 goals across the 1968 and 1970 editions of the tournament, but against Zambia, the Cameroon great struck a penalty to equal Pokou’s haul.
In the next match, the Indomitable Lions’ final group game against Sudan, Eto’o would strike another penalty to take the record outright, before adding his 16th in the competition history in the 90th minute.
He won the tournament’s Golden Boot with five goals, and would end his career with 18 goals.
Of all active players, the closest to Eto’o is Andre Ayew, on nine goals, and it’s hard to see the forward’s record being broken any time soon.
2009 Champions League Final
Three years after their triumph over Arsenal, Barcelona were again up against English opposition in the final as they took on Manchester United.
Eto’o opened the scoring in the scoring in the tenth minute as Barca blew away the reigning champions during a magnificent display. Lionel Messi added a second as the crown returned to Catalonia.
This UCL success rounded off a European treble for Barca, with the Messi-Eto’o-Henry triumvirate scoring 100 goals between them.
Eto’o’s goal against United meant that he became only the second player in history to score in two UCL finals.
2010 Champions League final
In 2010, after moving to Internazionale, Eto’o would complete another domestic treble—becoming the first player to achieve the feat—including another Champions League triumph.
It’s an achievement that would place him alongside Gerard Pique, Marcel Desailly and Paulo Sousa as players to have won the title with two separate teams.
Diego Milito netted twice in the final for Jose Mourinho’s Inter, with Eto’o, who had been used in a wide role by the Portuguese coach, contributing the assist for the opener.
2011 Champions League semi-final
While Inter would ultimately fall short in the 2010-11 Champions League, where they were eliminated in the quarter-finals, Eto’o would deliver one of his greatest-ever performances in the Round of 16 showdown with Bayern—a rematch of the previous final.
Inter lost the first leg 1-0 at home, but turned things around in the second leg, with Eto’o levelling affairs after four minutes.
Bayern led 3-1 on aggregate by half time after goals from Mario Gomez and Thomas Muller, but Eto’o would step up in the second half to prove his quality, providing assists for Wesley Sniejder and Goran Pandev to send the visitors true.
It was a performance to silence all those who claim that the attacker is a mere one-dimensional goalscorer.
Inter would fall to Schalke in the quarters.