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Last Updated: Friday, 16 April, 2004, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Where now for Eto'o?
Phil Minshull
BBC Sport, Spain

Samuel Eto'o (left) and Edgar Davids
Eto'o battles with Barcelona's Edgar Davids during Mallorca's 3-2 loss

With the end of the Spanish season looming, debate will soon start over the future of Cameroon international Samuel Eto'o, one of African football's most prolific strikers.

Earlier this season, the 23-year-old seemed certain to leave Real Mallorca, especially after commenting last October that his 'cycle at the club had come to an end'.

Now he is not so sure.

This week Eto'o suggested he may stay with the Balearic island club after all, much to the relief of the Mallorca fans who adore Eto'o.

Speaking publicly for the first time since Cameroon's lacklustre Cup of Nations campaign in January, Eto'o appeared to go back on his October statement.

"We all want to improve ourselves but for the moment I am happy here. There are another six games to go this season and I don't want to talk about these things at the moment," he said.

I want to be with a team that is in the running for titles
Samuel Eto'o

Yet Eto'o is almost certainly waiting to see whether Mallorca, where he has played for the last five years, avoid relegation from La Liga.

The team is currently perched just one place above the relegation zone and nervous times await in the final six weeks of the season.

Relegation would almost certainly force the Cameroonian, who has scored 49 goals in 127 games for the club, to leave.

He last played outside the top flight of Spanish football, where he has spent his entire career, as a teenager when on-loan to second division Leganes from Real Madrid and the Indomitable Lion has made it clear he doesn't want to return to that level.

For the moment I am happy at Real Mallorca
Samuel Eto'o

"I want to be with a team that is in the running for titles," Eto'o added.

His words were a clear hint that Mallorca's difficult domestic campaign wasn't what he wanted and that he would leave in an instant if a top club came for him with a suitable offer.

However, he might be prepared, or have, to stay with Mallorca should they stay up.

"But more than (challenging for titles), I want to play, Wednesday and Saturday if possible," Eto'o explained.

"Winning titles but sitting on the bench isn't much fun."

The 23-year-old seems to be caught between two stools regarding his future, especially since he is uncertain of whether he would command a starting role at a top-level club.

Eto'o makes no secret of the fact he would love to return to Real, where he was deemed surplus to requirements in January 2000, having played just 17 games in three years.

Samuel Eto'o
Eto'o celebrates his goal against Nigeria in the 2004 Cup of Nations

"I want to show them what they missed out on," he has said on several occasions over the past few seasons and he has usually turned on the style when facing the Spanish giants.

However, Real Madrid have been indifferent to his overtures and one thing that may have changed the attitude of Eto'o towards his present employers is the lack of big name suitors.

Despite his eccentricities, Eto'o remains a hero to the Mallorca fans largely thanks to his goals in last season's Spanish Cup run, including two in the final, which saw the club lift its first domestic honour.

Few dispute his gift for getting goals, yet the short-listed candidate for the Caf 2003 African Footballer of the Year has a volatile reputation which could dissuade many top clubs from trying to sign him.

Yet one thing that may revive international interest in Eto'o is his current hot streak.

He has scored four goals in his last six games, including the first in Mallorca's 2-0 win at Real Betis last Sunday.

Many pundits believe the Cameroonian would be lying second (he is currently equal 9th with 12 goals) to Real Madrid's Ronaldo in the scoring charts had he not missed five Mallorca games during the 2004 Cup of Nations.

However, Eto'o believes he can make up for lost time even though only six games remain this season.

"I think I can still get another four or five, but the most important thing is that we carry on winning," he said this week.

"There is no value in me scoring if we go on to lose 5-1."

Yet there is value, and it translates into dollars and euros.

Every time Eto'o hits the back of the net between now and the end of May, other clubs may forget his temperament and focus on his more positive attributes.




SEE ALSO
Eto'o promises goals
04 Feb 04  |  African
Caf delay Player of the Year
23 Jan 04  |  African
Eto'o in club row
30 Dec 03  |  African
Eto'o tops Caf shortlist
19 Nov 03  |  African



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