African Football HQ: Samuel Eto’o vs Barcelona

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AFHQ are celebrating some of Africa’s top Champions League semi-final performances

This week, African Football HQ are celebrating some of the outstanding African performances in the semi-final of the Champions League.

Some of the continent’s biggest stars have written legacy-defining chapters in their careers at this stage of the European Cup, with the likes of John Obi Mikel, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Michael Essien all excelling in the final four.

Samuel Eto’o is a little different, having stolen the show in two Champions League finals.

Indeed, he had already won the title in 2006 and 2009 before Internazionale’s semi-final against Barcelona in 2010, but it still turned out to be one of the most iconic performances of the forward’s career.

Up against Barca, the club who had sold him at the beginning of the season, Eto’o certainly had a point to prove.

He had won the treble under Pep Guardiola, but was still discarded as the Catalan giants recruited Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Internazionale in an attempt to give themselves another dimension going forward.

Eto’o would have the last laugh, as Inter downed Barca in the 2010 semi-final before going on to defeat Bayern Munich in the final.

It would be the striker’s third UCL victory—no African player has more—and he would also win yet another treble at Inter, replicating the success he’d enjoyed the season beforehand with Barcelona.

Known as a lethal goalscorer, Eto’o’s performance in the semi-final was something very different, as the striker adapted to Jose Mourinho’s tactical approach—a strategy that sought to stymie and neutralise Barca—for the greater good of the team.

It was a self-sacrificial display, as the striker put his ego to one side to focus on preventing Guardiola’s side from playing, writing another chapter in his legacy with a disciplined and committed display the kind of which we hadn’t seen from the Central African.

Having won the first leg 3-1 in Italy, Inter would only fall to a 1-0 defeat in Spain, holding their nerve—and demonstrating their mettle—to progress 3-2 on aggregate.

For Ed Dove, it is one of the most memorable African performances in the semi-final of the Champions League, with Eto’o’s modified role against the club who had discarded him representing a fascinating subplot in a genuine UCL classic.

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