On Sunday Everton beat Burnley 3-1 at Turf Moor as Roberto Martinez’ side won their second Premier League game on the spin, meaning we are now three games unbeaten in all competitions. The victory moved the Toffees up to ninth in the table and capped a positive week for the Club following a victory over Aston Villa and a Europa League point away in Lille. It’s been great as a supporter to finally have a smile on my face because during the earlier stages of the current campaign it was painful to watch at times. We struggled to get going but since the international break we’ve looked hungry to get ourselves back on track and our performances in our last three outings will certainly help us do just that.
Speaking of smiles on faces, our most recent victory was inspired by a man who has got the biggest and best smile I’ve ever seen, and he is the reason I sat down tonight to put a few words down about his performances and attitude since he arrived at Everton Football Club. That man, as you would have guessed by my first sentence in this paragraph, is Samuel Eto’o.
At 33 years of age Eto’o still possesses an abundance of talent and I have to admit, I’ve been surprised at how good and how fit he actually still is. From day one since he walked through the door at Finch Farm he hasn’t stopped smiling, and after an increasing involvement in Martinez’ side and four goals later, Evertonians are left digesting his latest performance in which Eto’o rolled back the years to put in a vintage display and fire the Toffees to a well-earned three points on the road.
His first touch for Everton was a goal, ironically against the Club he left last season – Chelsea, and since then he has made a further eight appearances (five starts) and scored four times. His involvement in Europe has been key, and he bagged his 45th goal in European competitions when he scored a late equaliser to earn a 1-1 draw with Krasnodar earlier this month. The Cameroon striker also started in Lille last week and was given another chance on Sunday at Turf Moor – where he played the full 90 minutes and nearly had a hat-trick. Whether he is deployed as the lone striker, alongside a strike partner, behind the striker or out wide, Eto’o’s class is still there for all to see and his energy and attitude is second to none. He is adaptable, hard-working, motivational and does not let his head go down.
You might expect a player of his age and experience to start slowing down but he’s showing no signs of that, he even mimicked a pensioner with his goal celebrations for Chelsea last season, mocking the fact that he’d been called ‘too old’ from some quarters. This season is no different; he is still hungry for goals, for assists, still hungry to get involved in the play and utilise his experience and knowledge of the game. You can see he still wants success and at times he looks like a little kid just happy to be out on a football pitch. The sight of Eto’o in an Everton shirt has been a refreshing one, but it has also been a bit surreal to many of us too. This is a guy whose played for some of Europe’s biggest Clubs, he’s been around the block and back again and is Africa’s most decorated footballer. The name Samuel Eto’o is known throughout the game and around the World, and now he finds himself in L4 doing the business in royal blue as Evertonians watch on with delight.
In Lukaku, Naismith and Eto’o we have three different players with different qualities but seeing all three of them in our starting line up on Sunday reminded me just how far we have come in the last 18 months. I mean our ability to attract players, could we have done this before the Martinez-era? I suppose the financial situation might be slightly rosier these days but there is no denying there is more of a lure to join the Club with Martinez at the helm and the signing of Eto’o was the latest example of that. I was very surprised when we announced a deal for the veteran, and I have to admit in the small glimpses I’ve seen of him in an Everton shirt I still find it slightly odd that he came here. With each week that passes he is becoming more and more involved, which probably comes down to fitness, and I know I speak for all Blues when I say this – he is a real asset to have at the Club and it is obvious that he is going to be a great influence during his time here, be it for one season or hopefully two.
Just think of the experiences he has had and how he can be a benefit to the likes of Rom, Ross and every other player in that squad. Lukaku can learn from him, he’s over ten years younger and has time on his side but there is no better mentor than Eto’o who has been there, seen it and done it. All of our players must be boosted by the fact he came to join them at this Football Club when in reality he would have had the pick of a long list of suitors for his signature. I think that decision speaks volumes about the current Everton and I think the way in which Eto’o has applied himself since signing proves to anyone who might label or doubt him that he still has a lot to offer and he isn’t just here for one final pay cheque. We all love to see our players graft for the cause but in Eto’o we’ve got someone who will dig deep, he will try different things and he will use his know-how in the game to help his team mates. He has real ability with both feet and has scored twice with his head this season too – not bad for a striker who isn’t exactly blessed with height. On Sunday he played in an advanced attacking midfielder role and this could be where we see him deployed on a more regular basis in the coming weeks. Martinez is trying different line-ups and formations but the idea of Eto’o playing in that position makes sense. Let Lukaku run off the shoulder of defenders and use his pace and power, allow Naismith to do what he does best by getting physical in the air and create space in the final third, whilst Eto’o picks holes in defences and provides creativity from just behind. Like an experienced predator picking off his prey. Even if he did play further back on Sunday it doesn’t mean it takes his goal threat away, he scored twice and could easily have had a third, so having these options are a nice selection problem for Martinez to experiment with, it will be interesting to see if he sticks with it in the next few weeks.
Every time he has been involved I’ve looked forward to watching Eto’o play and I’ve not been disappointed once. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by his all-round professionalism since he came here and I’m hoping that he can continue to play a part in our side and continue to become more and more involved because he’s proving to be so useful. He’s not just a player too, he is probably acting as a part-time coach as Martinez looks to get the most out of him whilst he is here.
Samuel Eto’o hit 12 goals for Chelsea last term and has already scored a third of that figure for Everton this season. Although fitness might have been a problem in the opening months of the campaign we are now seeing a fit and hungry Eto’o who is proving he still has lots to offer at the top-level. He has endeared himself to us Evertonians by displaying a professional, positive attitude and obviously by banging in a few goals along the way too. Long may this continue, it’s turning out to be a smart move by Roberto and even if it’s just for one season, this Evertonian is certainly appreciating having such a big-name and big talent within our side.
What’s that cliché? Form is temporary, class it permanent. Samuel Eto’o is the proof.
I think Leighton Baines sums it up nicely here with his recent quotes on Eto’o…
“The great thing is that he still looks hungry. He’s come in with a really great attitude.He works hard and he seems to really enjoy coming in. He loves his training, and he’s quite easy to get on with.
“He hasn’t come in with any big ego. I don’t think he’s come here any different to the other clubs he’s been at. He just wants to be a success, and that’s what we’re all seeing. He’s still a great finisher so he’s a really good fit for us.”
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