With Samuel Eto’o excused from a public training session at Appiano Gentile this afternoon, it seems as if his big money move to Anzhi Makhachkala is all but sealed.
The four-time African player of the year is set for a medical at Rome’s Villa Stuart complex tomorrow with officials of the two clubs set to finalize the deal – thought to be in the region of €30m – on the same day.
That the move will go ahead should be of little surprise as last week Eto’o’s agent Claudio Vigorelli told the Russian Press that he had “practically closed the deal” with Anzhi on a massive €20m-a-year, three-year contract. To put that into context, the deal would make him the highest paid athlete in history.
Not only will the move be financially appealing for Eto’o but he will be joining a host of stars at the up-and-coming club. Since being bought by billionaire Suleyman Kerimov in January, Anzhi has signed Brazilian veteran Roberto Carlos as well as several of football’s brightest young talents including Jucilei from Corinthians, Mbark Boussoufa and Balazs Dzsudzsak. The club currently lie sixth, but if Kerimov’s in it for the long-term it is possible Eto’o could again be at one of Europe’s strongest teams.
Furthermore, the Cameroonian has never fully settled in Italy despite his treble success with the Nerazzurri in his first season at the San Siro – he has never learned Italian.
Yet a move to Russia may prove uncomfortable for different reasons. Although the club plays its games in Makhachkala, the region is hugely politically unstable so the players live and train in Moscow – 1,000 miles away – and Russia is not the most welcoming country for black players. Carlos has already been the subject of two high-profile incidents of racist abuse – the last back in June when a banana was thrown on to the pitch in Samara apparently leaving the defender in tears.
While Eto’o’s departure makes sense for Inter from financial point of view – not least because they will divest themselves of the player’s sizable contract which extends to 2014 – but it will also leave them much weaker up front which could prove problematic for new Inter Coach Gian Gasperini if an adequate replacement is not found.
Despite the club’s disappointing season last season, the centre forward hit the net 37 times in 53 games, (up from 16 in 48 the previous year) and at the time of writing, no direct replacement has been brought in.
What’s more Eto’o is not the only player heading out of the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. There is still a question mark over Wesley Sneijder, although the Dutchman may not have been a complete fit for Gaperini’s tactical plan anyway, and McDonald Maringa, Davide Santon and Diego Milito could also all be surplus to requirements.
With the only close-season additions to the squad so far being attacking midfielder Ricky Alvarez from Velez Sarsfeld and defender Jonathan from Santos the Nerazzurri tifosi will be giving the new season a cautious welcome.