CAIRO - A record fourth African
Footballer of the Year award entitles Samuel Eto'o the right
to claim to be the continent's best-ever player but it is a
title that sits uncomfortably with the Cameroonian.
The 29-year-old Inter Milan striker crowned a year of
unprecedented club success with the award, handed to him in
Cairo on Monday as he finished ahead of perennial rival Didier
Drogba of Ivory Coast and Ghana's Asamoah Gyan in the polling.
The Cameroon captain has now achieved more honours and won
more major medals than any other of the continent's players
but is reluctant to accept he might be Africa's best ever.
"That would be impossible to say. To win the Footballer of
the Year four times is to create a new record but I don't
think it gives me the right to say I am the best," he told
Reuters in Cairo after accepting his award.
"There were greats in previous generations who had
different challenges and situations to me. You can't really
compare the times.
"Now there are youngsters who are climbing the ladder of
success behind me and who are coming up really fast. Who is to
say who is the best?"
But there is a case to be made that Eto'o's achievements
are unsurpassed by any of the other top footballers to emerge
Monday's award beat Abedi Pele's trio of successive
African Footballer of the Year accolades in the early 1990s.
At international level, Eto'o has competed at three World
Cup finals, captaining his country at this year's tournament
in South Africa.
He has won the African Nations Cup twice and 18 goals in
six finals tournaments is a record that will be tough to
overcome. He also won an Olympic gold medal in 2000.
But it is at club level where he has excelled. Moving to
Spain as a teenager and determinedly working his way through
the difficulties of adapting to new conditions and bouts of
racism to go on and prove to be one of the finest strikers in
At Barcelona, he won two UEFA Champions League winners
medals and scored in both the 2006 and 2009 finals, and was
victorious again in May's final with new club Inter Milan.
With both teams he won domestic league and cup honours too.
The baby-faced Eto'o's exceptional speed and finishing
ability have set him apart from many of his contemporaries.
His achievements overshadow a gallery of legends, the
likes of Mozambican-born Eusebio, who played in four European
Cup finals but won just once, Roger Milla, who was named the
best African player of the last century and Abedi Pele, who
won club honours but never qualified with his country for the
Eto'o's achievements also easily outshine current rival
Drogba but he must still match the 1995 achievement of
Liberian George Weah, the only African ever crowned World
Player of the Year.
"These honours are not something that you seek out but
when they come they give great pleasure. And they motivate
too," Eto'o said.
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