Barcelona have deemed Samuel Eto'o's surplus but the Cameroon international stiker's impressive performance in the pre-season has led his teammates and some fans to ask the Spanish club to reconsider.
“The entire team backs him. He's one of the best in the world. I don't know what is going on with the club but he's very important to the team,” French striker Thierry Henry said Sunday after Barcelona beat Mexican side CD Guadalajara 5-2 in a friendly in Chicago.
Eto'o contributed two of the goals after coming on as a substitute in the second half, the first one just four minutes after he hit the pitch.
The 27-year-old, Barcelona's top scorer in the Spanish league last year with 16 goals, has scored three times in four pre-season matches.
Eto'o was one of three high-profile Barcelona layers – Deco and Ronaldinho being the others – told in June that he was not part of new coach Pep Guardiola's plans as the club seeks to rebuild following a second successive trophyless season.
Deco has since joined English side Chelsea while Ronaldinho has joined Italian side AC Milan but Eto'o's has so far failed to find a new home while Barcelona continues to search for a much-needed striker to replace him.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta said recently that the three-times African Player of the Year could stay at the club.
“In this world, nothing is unchanging. The decision is up to the technical staff. The sports dimension will always prevail. Samuel's attitude is good and I appreciate his bahaviour,” he said, adding Barcelona sports chief Txiki Begiristain would have the final word.
Begiristain, however, has insisted that Eto'o, who signed from Mallorca in 2004, is on the way out.
“The best solution for Eto'o would be if he was sold before the Champions League preliminary games. The market is about to close and we're considering many options with Pep Guardiola,” he said Tuesday.
If Eto'o were to play during Barcelona's third qualifying round of the Champions League next week he could not play in the tournament for his new team if he is transfered, which would complicate any deal.
Begiristain said Friday that at least “four or five big clubs” were interested in signing Eto'o but there had been no official offers yet, with the striker needing to agree terms with a club before negotiations can begin.
“We are waiting for this agreement. If he moves, it'll be to a big club, of course,” he told Britain's Sky Sports News.
Laporta has said talks had taken place with Inter Milan and AC Milan.
For his part Guardiola, who took over from Frank Rijkaard as Barcelona coach at the end of June, has also remained inflexible despite the striker's strong performances.
“My opinion has not changed. Eto'o is with us at the moment and as long as he is a Barcelona player we will try to get the best performance out of him,” he said.
Barcelona's players meanwhile keep singing Eto'o praises.
Midfielder Xavi Hernandez, voted Euro 2008's best player, has called him an “exceptional player” while Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi have called him “one of the three best strikers in the world”.
Like Henry, Barcelona captain Carlos Puyol has indicated he would like to see Eto'o stay at the club.
“He is one of the best in the world. Now he is just another member of the squad and is working like normal with a lot of desire and ambition. Things are like any other year,” he said at a press conference in New York.
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