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Samuel Eto’o takes the money and runs to Russia

August 23, 2011 |  4:12 pm

Soccer4 The world’s highest-paid soccer player now plays for a club that is only 20 years old, has never won anything and that no one outside the beleaguered and violence-ridden Dagestan region in Russia has ever heard of, let alone seen play.

Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o, formerly of Barcelona and Inter Milan, has taken the money and run off to join FC Anzhi Makhachkala of the Russian Premier League.

Who could blame him? Eto’o is 30 and on the downward slope of a superlative career that has seen him win European Champions League titles with Barcelona in 2006 and 2009, among many other honors.

If a Russian oil mogul named Suleiman Kerimov is willing to pay him a reported $29 million a year after taxes on a three-year contract, as London’s Financial Times indicated, why not grab the gold and hope for the best?

Inter Milan was thinking much the same thing when it agreed to terms with Anzhi Makhachkala that will net the debt-laden Italian Serie A team $36 million.

“There are other valuable players in the team and we’ll start building again,” Inter Milan Coach Gian Piero Gasperini said of losing the prolific Eto’o, who scored 37 goals last season.

Anzhi Makhachkala, founded in 1991, already has landed two other “name” players recently in former Brazilian World Cup winner Roberto Carlos, 38, and Russian international and former Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov, 28.

But signing Eto’o is a coup of momentous proportions for billionaire Kerimov, who was guaranteed worldwide headlines by paying Eto’o more than the likes of Barcelona’s  Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

Because of the crime and civil unrest in and around Makhachkala, on the Caspian Sea, the club’s players live and train in suburban Moscow and travel to their home stadium only for matches.

Eto’o no doubt factored this into the equation, as well as the fact that he is effectively dropping off the soccer map, but $29-million a year can be a persuasive argument.

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-- Grahame L. Jones

Photo: Striker Samuel Eto'o competes with Inter Milan during a Champions League match on April 5. Credit: Luca Bruno / Associated Press

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