Samuel Eto'o insists he moved to Anzhi in Russia for footballing reasons not money
Eto'o was criticized for his shock summer transfer from Inter Milan to the unknown Dagestan side
Eto'o wants to make Anzhi and the Russian League a major force in world football
His side on the cusp of the Russian League playoffs with two games to go in regular season
Cameroon star Samuel Eto’o has rejected suggestions he moved to Anzhi Makhachkala purely for the money and instead sees himself as a trailblazer to promote football in Russia.
Eto’o’s summer transfer from Italian giants Inter Milan to the little-known side from the Russian province of Dagestan made headlines, with many believing a lucrative three-year contract, reportedly to make him the highest paid footballer in the world, was the motivation.
Eto’o told CNN that such speculation did not bother him and was wide of the mark.
“I don’t care what people think,” he said. “I think all of us want to work and get paid what we are worth. Anzhi made an offer, which was at the same level as my talent, and they are paying me what they think I am worth.”
At 30, Eto’s is still at the peak of his game, with three Champions League titles, two with Barcelona and the latest with Inter, but he was persuaded by Anzhi’s billionaire oil tycoon owner Suleiman Kerimov that he could replicate that success in Russia.
“He (Kerimov) told me he wanted to build a big team and he had thought about me as someone who could lead that project.
“It touched me because I had only seen myself as a professional player, not a project leader, and this new challenge was important to me. I was offered a great deal and we reached an arrangement quite quickly,” he admitted.
Reports of an annual salary of nearly $30 million have not been confirmed, but with big money coming into the league and the World Cup set to be staged there in 2018, Eto’o said that other star players were being attracted to Russia.
“I have to tell you that practically every day I get a (text) message or a phone call from a high-profile player who wonders whether there are opportunities to come here,” he revealed.
Anzhi’s other high-profile player is 38-year-old Brazilian star Roberto Carlos, who is the club captain.
Eto’o joined the club at the back end of the Russian season and has scored four goals, including the opener at the weekend against CSKA Moscow in a 5-3 defeat.
That left his side in eighth place with just two games in the 2011 regular season remaining.
For Eto’o and his team they will be crucial as they need to ensure they retain that spot to qualify for the crucial playoffs which begin next March and which decide European qualification for the 2012/13 season.
He will be certainly hoping that some of the “Mourinho magic”, he played under the Portuguese at Inter, can rub off on his teammates.
“Mourinho is one of the best managers with whom I have worked.
“I had a chance not only to have him as a coach but as a colleague, a friend, a big brother. I had a chance to learn from him and he was open to receiving advice from me as well even though I think he knew it all !” said Eto’o.