One of the ironies of Samuel Eto’o playing for FC Barcelona is that he originally joined arch-rivals Real Madrid, who immediately put him out on loan; first to second division CD Leganes; then to first division Espanyol after playing just one league match for Madrid; and finally to Mallorca. He did so well at the latter club that they signed him for a club record and became the highest scorer in the history of the club with a total of 54 goals between 2000 and 2004.
The Cameroon striker signed to FC Barcelona after a series of negotiations between Barcelona, Mallorca and Real Madrid who had retained an option on him. On one hand Madrid didn’t require him in the team as they already had two strikers in the form of Ronaldo and Raul; on the other hand they didn’t want him to play for Barcelona, a club that was looking for a quality striker to cement the attack after they were unable to come to an agreement with midfielder Edgar Davids, who had spent the second half of the 2003-2004 season on loan to the Catalan club.
With Eto’o in place as striker and Ronaldinho as attacking mid-fielder, Samuel Eto’o quickly proved to be good value for money and scored a total of 24 league goals in the 2004-2005 season. Although he helped FC Barcelona to take the league title, he narrowly missed the title of top goal scorer in La Liga.
However, at the celebrations that followed at the Nou Camp he gave speech in which he openly criticised Real Madrid, apparently venting the bitterness he felt for being passed over by the club in favour of being put on loan. He later had to retract his statement and issue an apology.
The following year Samuel Eto’o was able to improve of his league score and with a total of 26 goals he narrowly took the “Pichichi” crown, just one goal ahead of David Villa from Valencia. His strong performance on the pitch saw him also score six Champions League goals, helping to propel Barcelona all the way to the final against Arsenal. He was strongly implicated in the result as first the Arsenal goalkeeper was sent off for a foul against Eto’o in the first 20 minutes; failing to capitalise on the one man advantage, Eto’o equalised in the 76th minute from a pass from Larsson and Belletti scored the winning goal a few minutes after.
On the basis of a strong season Samuel Eto’o was awarded the title of UEFA Champion’s League Best Forward as well as Best African Player for the third year running.