Eto'o future in the balance

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The Independent Online

Samuel Eto'o would like to stay at Barcelona next season but would be "delighted" to join Manchester City if he can't agree a new contract with the Spanish champions, the player's agent announced today.

Eto'o has just one year remaining on his current deal with the Catalan giants and Josep Maria Mesalles is unhappy that the club appear to be forcing Eto'o out against his wishes.

Mesalles called a press conference to clarify his client's situation today.

In it, he claimed Barcelona - for the second year running - had initially told him Eto'o was free to leave the Nou Camp although the club changed tack last night by putting a new two-year deal on the table for the Cameroon international.

"On June 2, the club called a meeting and I was told by (Barca sporting director) Txiki Begiristain and (director of football) Raul Sanllehi that due to a technical decision, Samuel does not feature in the club's plans next season," he said.

"We then had another meeting and I was told once again that Samuel was not in their plans for next season."

Mesalles is keen to speak to Barca coach Pep Guardiola to clarify the situation.

"Guardiola said at the end of the season that he was delighted with Samuel, so I don't know what has changed," he said.

"My mistake was to not verify this information and we need to find out what the coach wants, because he is the one who ultimately decides."

Barcelona offered Eto'o, who scored 35 goals as Barca claimed an unprecedented treble of the Primera Division, Copa del Rey and Champions League last season, the new deal last night, but Mesalles is unsure as to the club's motives.

"I don't know if everything changed in the space of an afternoon, I don't know if they really want Samuel to stay of if they just want to make money out of him," he said.

Mesalles insists his player's preference is to stay at the Nou Camp, but says he will leave if he is not wanted.

"He would be delighted to stay if they want him and we will study their offer if it is serious, but if they don't want him we will do all we can to help Samuel find a new club," he said.

Mesalles revealed that he has not spoken to Manchester City, who have reportedly made a 25.5million euro offer for Eto'o and put to him a contract described by Barca president Joan Laporta as "stratospheric".

"We have not sat down to speak to them (City), but they have made Barcelona an offer," he said.

Mesalles said Eto'o had wanted to play in the Champions League next season, but that he would be happy to join Mark Hughes' side if he cannot reach an agreement to remain in Catalonia.

"In theory he wanted to play in the Champions League, but if Manchester City have an offer accepted, we would be delighted to go there," he said.

Mesalles spent half of Monday with Eto'o in Paris, but the player is now on holiday with his family and is planning to return for pre-season training on July 20.

"He will arrive in Barcelona on July 19 and will be ready for the first day of training and the medical exams the next day," Mesalles said.

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