Samuel Eto'o insists he did not move to Anzhi Makhachkala for the money
The 32-year-old was the highest paid player in the world during his time in Russian football
Eto'o signed for Chelsea in August after reuniting with manager Jose Mourinho
Believes new club has every chance of winning the European Champions League
Samuel Eto’o doesn’t like the question – instead, he points to a picture.
It is of a hospital in Cameroon – “I want to give a chance to each child,” he says.
When Eto’o, a four time African Player of the Year, signed for Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in August 2011, he became the highest paid player in the world.
Here was a man who had already won the Champions League on three occasions, starred for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan and led Cameroon to Africa Cup of Nations glory – twice.
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It was a move which raised plenty of eyebrows considering Anzhi’s standing on the European stage and gave credence to the argument that Eto’o was more interested in Russian rubles than ramming home goals in one of the continent’s top divisions.
Such accusations rile the 32-year-old, who is adamant that he made the move to an unheralded team in Dagestan for the challenge rather than the financial rewards provided by the club’s oil tycoon chairman Suleiman Kerimov.
“It’s not a question of money because when you look at my career, I’ve won everything except for the World Cup,” Eto’o told CNN World Sport.
“It’s also a problem of motivation too. I had the opportunity this window to go play again at Inter and other teams in Italy.
“At Inter, I was the best paid player in the world. But it’s not a question of money because when I go out onto the pitch, I only have one thing in mind – winning.
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“And I don’t think about having money in my bank account or not, I only think about winning, having fun and entertaining the fans – these are the only things I have in my head.
“Of course, it’s normal for people to say, ‘yeah, this player changed teams because of the money.’
“That could be the case sometimes, but after a certain level of success? No.”
That money has given him a life he may never have dreamed of while growing up as a young boy in Cameroon – but it has also helped hundreds of disadvantaged children in his home country.
The “Fundacion Privada Samuel Eto’o,” which was established in 2006, helps provide basic healthcare and works on improving social inclusion.
So while Eto’o is aware of the exorbitant wages he has received, he is equally aware of just how vital that money has been in helping those chasing the dream of becoming Africa’s next superstar football player.
“We’ve done quite a few things with ambulances, operation centers…we’ve built hospitals in the interior of the country.,” he points out.
“I have a lot of boys who play in Barcelona’s youth academy – I have another named Unlinga who plays also for Malaga – all of these come from my foundation.
“I have a lad who’s a good forward, he’s doing quite well, named Odongu. I have a kid named Abanya who’s a center back.
“All of them come from my foundation and it’s the joy that I try to share – the opportunity – that I want to give to each child.
“They themselves have to fight for their place, but the first opportunity is what I try to give them.”
Eto’o, now at Chelsea following his move to London last month, has reportedly taken a huge pay cut from the estimated $26.8 million a year he was earning at Anzhi.
Instead, he has signed a one-year deal at Stamford Bridge thought to be worth around $11 million with Anzhi keen to offload the forward and ease pressure on its wage bill.
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The move to the west London club came as something of a surprise, not least because of the striker’s former disdain for a club which he said, “I’d rather sell groundnuts in my village than to play for a pathetic team like Chelsea.”
That comment came following Chelsea’s Champions League victory over Barcelona in 2005 where Eto’o was left seething at the tactics of a certain Jose Mourinho - now in his second spell as manager of the London club.
After the tie, which Chelsea won, Eto’o told a Spanish media outlet: “Chelsea going through is a disaster for football.
“If this team wins the Champions League, it would make you want to retire.”
Little did Eto’o know then that five years later he would be exchanging love letters and text messages with Mourinho as Inter Milan embarked on an astonishing run of success which culminated with victory in the 2010 Champions League final.
In July 2009, the Cameroon striker was sent packing by Barcelona as the Catalan club secured the services of the enigmatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Eto’o, was seen as surplus to requirements and moved to Serie A to team up with Mourinho – a partnership which flourished even after the two parted ways.
While he is reticent when it comes to talking about former Barca boss Pep Guardiola, “I don’t talk about him,” he says, Eto’o is unyielding in his praise for Mourinho.
“There is only one Jose Mourinho,’ Eto’o once said about the Portuguese coach. “I have played under a lot of great coaches but there is no other character in the game like Jose.”
The two men helped Inter win the treble during their time together at the San Siro and Eto’o even revealed that he attempted to persuade Mourinho to move to Anzhi with him.
“Since we met at Inter, he has always been in my life,” he said.
“We talk almost all the time – he sent me a good luck message before a match and I’d send him something, he can ask me something or I can do the same.
“And I’m going to tell you a secret. You know that I spoke with the boss about coming with me to Anzhi? Because I thought he was the right man for the job and situation. Yes, I said this to him.”
Mourinho, now back at Chelsea following his departure from Real Madrid, will hope the two can combine again with the club aiming to challenge for both the Premier League and Champions League titles.
Eto’o sees similarities between this Chelsea side and the Inter team which conquered Europe in 2010 – and believes another Champions League title could be on the horizon.
“When I got to Inter, they didn’t expect anything from us,” he said.
“People would say, ‘they’re old, they’re this, they’re that’ and we ended up winning everything.
“In football, it’s not a question of saying, ‘do we have a squad?’
“The first thing for victory is believing. Believing that you can achieve. When you believe that you can achieve something, I’m sure that you’re 60% on the path to victory.
“Chelsea has won before and it can win again. We’re going to work hard to be able to do it.”