Eto'o sparkle ignites Catalan dream

As La Liga resumes, Barça's striker explains to Tim Hanlon why he's done so well at the Nou Camp

For Many Barcelona fans the team of their dreams remains Johan Cruyff's vibrant side of the early Nineties. It was then that the likes of Romario and Hristo Stoichkov gave the club its greatest moment when Ronald Koeman's free-kick won them their European Cup in 1992.

However as Spanish football resumes this weekend after its brief winter break, there are plenty of Barça followers who feel the current team - managed by Frank Rijkaard, another Dutchman - are capable of emulating, even surpassing, the deeds of those heroes of yesteryear.

If they do, the crucial contribution is less likely to be Ronaldinho's tricks or Deco's artistry but the clinical finishing of Samuel Eto'o. The Cameroon international has been the star of the first half of La Liga season, outshining any of the Real Madrid galacticos, and even his much-admired team-mate Ronaldinho, the new world footballer of the year.

The 23 year old is the current pichichi (top scorer) in Spain, having scored 13 league and three Champions' League goals. He arrived at the Nou Camp last summer in a complicated transfer (he was jointly owned by Real Madrid and Real Mallorca), but remains level-headed about his achievement.

"I am not surprised by the number of goals that I have scored this season because I am surrounded by great players," he says. "My success is a result of the work of my team-mates. They are the ones that make me look good.

"It is thanks to them that I score. An older player once told me that a footballer's family includes his team-mates in the dressing room - and a family never lets you down. I have to do my work and if I fail they fail."

It is five years since Barcelona won a trophy, and there have been some dark days during that period - not least being utterly eclipsed by their hated rivals Real Madrid, who have amassed two Spanish titles and two Champions' League trophies while Barça have been floundering in the wilderness.

Now, though, those roles seem about to be reversed, with Rijkaard's brilliant team establishing a 10-point lead in La Liga (over Valencia) and savouring a mouth-watering tie in the Champions' League against Chelsea.

With Ronaldinho having struggled for most of the season with an ankle injury, Eto'o has scored most of the vital goals, none more so than his strike three minutes from time to give Barça victory against Levante in their last match.

"I watch all the games that I have played afterwards on video and try to learn from the mistakes that I made," he said, "but it is true that the role of a striker is to make a quick decision and it is not always right."

Eto'o admitted that he was daunted at first at the prospect of playing in a Barça side full of stars but says he has benefited from playing alongside some hugely talented team-mates, not least the former Celtic hero Henrik Larsson.

"The biggest thing that I have learnt here, is to play without the ball and in that respect I have an unbeatable teacher in [Henrik] Larsson," Eto'o added. "The most important thing he has taught me is about movement. It is vital that the reference for the attack makes diagonal movements into space and so drags defenders, making openings in the area for the second line." He adds, a little confusingly: "It is not as easy as it sounds. People talk a lot about the talent of the Barça team, and it clearly has it, but there is almost more work than talent in our team."

"Xavi [Hernandez], Deco and Ronaldinho are great footballers and I worried about whether I would understand their play. I try to think as them, to anticipate a decision that they are going to make. They are very courageous in their play and I aim to copy them in the sense that they are not afraid to fail, they are winners and do not have fear.

"Football is also a game of failure and they are winners because if they do not succeed in something they are not afraid to try it again."

Rijkaard usually plays Eto'o in the centre of attack with Ronaldinho to his left and Ludovic Giuly to his right. Eto'o says he prefers the extra responsibility which comes with the position.

"On the wings I play more directly, it is more straight forward and concrete. But in the centre I work more and I take a lot of decisions. I am the only player in the team that plays with his back to the goal and I am a target like [Rafael] Marquez in defence.

"When I get the ball I need to choose, to play the ball off, or to turn and head for the area. In the game I put my heart into it, I think a lot more than it appears. But I play with my head almost more than my legs."

There can be no better man to judge the potential of this present Barça side than Cruyff himself, who still has an influence at the club although he has steered clear of an official position.

"I believe that we are at the door of a new great era for Barça similar to when I was trainer of the club and we can go on to win a lot of titles - but that is if the coaches, directors and the rest do not get involved with outside interferences," he said.

"They are now the clear favourites to win the league but they must face the second half of the season with more pressure and start out again from the beginning. Rijkaard knows how a footballer thinks and also has great maturity and humility. This is vital for there to be a good atmosphere in the dressing room."

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice