Pete Jenson: Eto'o thrives after move to right

"We don't always agree on things," said Samuel Eto'o about his relationship with coach Pep Guardiola this week. "Sometimes we do what I say, sometimes we do what he says but usually it's true that when we do what he says he turns out to be right." It will have been Guardiola that decided to start with his Cameroon centre-forward wide on the right and Leo Messi through the middle, and it worked like a dream in the crucial first period of the game.

Not just because it was Eto'o who steamed in from the right past Nemanja Vidic, putting Barça ahead, but because it gave them a width they might otherwise have missed and, more importantly, it freed up Messi to play centrally, just off the front. There he linked up with Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta and formed a Bermuda Triangle in which United's midfield sank without trace.

While Sir Alex Ferguson failed to exploit Barça's weakest point – the forced selection of Sylvinho at left-back – Guardiola took full advantage of the absence of Darren Fletcher. The link-up play between Xavi and especially Messi and Iniesta, who have been playing together since they were young teenagers, was too much for United and for Michael Carrick, who was cruelly exposed as Iniesta set-up Eto'o's goal.

In the semi-final, first leg Chelsea sat a midfield five in front of their back four and there was no way through for Barcelona's pass masters but in the Stadio Olimpico Messi and Iniesta played in Carrick's space and dominated it. Meanwhile Eto'o was more than a match for Patrice Evra, who had expected to be marking Messi.

Scoring first, Barça forced United to make changes, throwing on first Carlos Tevez and then Dimitar Berbatov and finishing up with four forwards on the pitch. As a consequence they were even more out-numbered in midfield.

Of course, the one problem with playing Messi through the middle is that he is not a centre-forward. He can't make those perfectly-timed runs into the six-yard box and he certainly can't head the ball. Well, maybe he can. It was not as powerful as Cristiano Ronaldo's header in the final last year but it was just as clever and it ended up in the back of Edwin van der Sar's net.

Defensively, Barcelona's big fear going into the game was the loss of both their full-backs. But with Sergi Busquets protecting a back four playing together for the first time this season they were not troubled in the first half.

Guardiola got so much right but he also got lucky because so many of his players served up their best game of the season. No-one more than Eto'o, who gave everything in the last 90 minutes of what has been for him an extraordinary season.

At the start of the campaign he was put in the Camp Nou shop window. Fortunately for Barça no-one took a chance on a player whose outbursts and annual two-month injuries had become as much a feature of his seasons as his goals.

After scoring 29 goals in a superb league campaign, he found something extra at the end of a marathon 62-game season. He was poor against Chelsea and he had not scored for a month but his magic moment in the first half turned the game. He got one of the two goals in the final in Paris in 2006 and, once again, when his team needed him he delivered.

He was not the only one looking fresh at the final hurdle. With Frank Rijkaard watching from the stands, minds went back to last season when a rotund Ronaldinho was Barcelona's talisman. Guardiola has knocked Barcelona into shape. Their shape as a team and their individual fitness against the power and pace of United, attributes that they were so wary of, won them the Champions League and the first ever Spanish treble.

Catalan cash: How it pays

£51.03m Manchester United's minimum earnings from this season's Champions League, despite last night's defeat.

£3.48m Prize-money Alex Ferguson's side receive as runners-up last night.

£17.5m Amount United earned from ticket sales and match-day income during this season's competition.

£17.5m United's market pool share of Uefa TV funds to English clubs (of £44m). This is split between the four English clubs in this season's competition, based on where they finished in last season's Premier League. United were top, so get the lion's share in a 4:3:2:1 split with Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Meanwhile...

£44.92m Barcelona's guaranteed sum from similar income streams as above. These are lower than United's earnings as Barça finished third in La Liga in 2007-08 and so receive less Spanish "market pool" cash. The Spaniards are also in line to receive £20m in bonuses from sponsors.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
football
News
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese
people
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us