Samuel Eto’o looks set to make his debut for Chelsea this evening when they take on Everton at Goodison Park, but he has revealed how he came close to signing for their London rivals Arsenal earlier in his career.
The striker has admitted that he was within hours of joining the Gunners back in 2000, but he instead signed for Real Mallorca after failing to break into the Real Madrid first-team.
Eto’o had spent the second half of the previous season on loan with the Spanish side, and he has said that a conversation with then-coach Luis Aragones led him to join the club on a permanent basis, turning down a move to Highbury.
“I met Luis (who went on to coach Spain) at a crucial moment in my life where I had to take the right direction - and thanks to him I did,” Eto'o said in an interview with The Sun.
“I was about to sign that very afternoon at Arsenal and maybe I would never have been the player I am today. Luis picked me, then I ended up joining Barcelona. That decision changed everything.”
Eto’o spent four years with Mallorca before he moved to the Nou Camp to join Barcelona in 2004, going on to become one of the most lethal finishers in the game.
During his time with the Catalan club, he won two Champions League titles, and three La Liga campaigns before heading to the San Siro to join up with Inter Milan and Jose Mourinho as part of the swap deal for Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Having had a frosty relationship with Mourinho due to the European rivalry between Barcelona and Chelsea, Eto’o was reluctant to play under the Portuguese manager, but he soon changed his mind once he got to know “The Special One” and the two have now linked up once again at Chelsea.
He spent two years in Russia with Anzhi Makhachkala in-between his spell in Italy and his move to the Premier League, in which he became the highest paid footballer in the world, earning a reported £330,000-a-week.
Mourinho has moved to bring him to Stamford Bridge, having allowed Romelu Lukaku to join Everton on a season-long loan, and the Cameroonian will compete with Fernando Torres and Demba Ba to spearhead the talented Chelsea attack.