For many, Samuel Eto’o is the best African player in history.
Making his breakthrough at Real Madrid, he triumphed with Barcelona, adding to his two Champions League wins with a third in four years at Inter.
Now he lives between Qatar and Milan with his family waiting to decide his future.
Have you been able to visit the newly finished stadium in Doha, Education City?
When it was being built, yes, I visited, but not since it’s been finished because of the pandemic. We’ve been at home for a while. Just with the photos I’ve been able to see, it makes me want to put my boots back on and think about playing. Although, I don’t last five minutes in my garden. So I’ll enjoy it and be there as a fan.
Will it be the best World Cup in terms of facilities?
In terms of infrastructure, it’s going to be the dog’s bollocks. Many have criticised Qatar but I think that the 2022 World Cup will be the best organized in the next 50 or 100 years. I think that those who take in this moment won’t be able to experience anything like it.
In Spain, it will come in winter, would you encourage Spaniard to travel if we qualify?
They have to come, I don’t think they’ll have another chance like this in their lives.
Football is back in Spain, how do you think LaLiga Santander will end?
Like always: If Barcelona win, everything is good for me. I know there is a game soon between Mallorca and Barcelona, the two teams of my heart, I won’t be able to be there, but I’ll watch on television to support them both.
You’re a Cule brought up as a Madridista, right?
I don’t have any problem with Real Madrid, they gave me the opportunity to dream of being a footballer, I didn’t have the chance to play at Real Madrid. I had success elsewhere and the Cule feeling came through.
I’m grateful to all of those who helped me to have that feeling and I don’t forget the five or six years I spent at the Ciudad Condal. The first two or three years we played football like on the PlayStation.
We were a group of friends who wanted to be together to have a good time on and off the pitch. When you have a team like that, with the quality we had, success is assured.
When will you return to Barcelona and in what role?
My dream is to return, but right now I just finished my career and I’m enjoying a long holiday with my family, ready to prepare my future life.
Where will you begin as a coach?
I don’t think about what I’m going to do between now and in a year. I only think about tomorrow, helping my daughter to finish her homework because I haven’t always had the chance to do it.
Now I have disconnected a bit and I focus on my family. This way I can prepare myself calmly for this future life.
Do you think the current Barcelona team has too much dependence on Leo Messi?
It’s normal. Leo is the best player in the world and the best of all time. I’d always pick the team asking Messi who he wanted next to him, in his team.
Every team in the world wants Messi. Then, you have to give him support. He can’t run like a 25-year-old kid anymore, although he does sometimes.
What we have to do as Barcelona fans is give him the best team in the world to keep enjoying him. He has to play until he’s 70 so that we can enjoy more.
You’ve said before that you love Pep the coach, but not so much Pep the person, what did you mean?
I stick to what I said, and I’m not the only person who has said it. My experience with Pep at Barcelona was what it was, but on a personal level it wasn’t what we hoped for.
Many players have said the same about him. As a coach, Pep prepares games like nobody else. How he coached us in 2009 was incredible, his way of seeing attacking football, control, having the ball, rondos, Pep was the best at that.
As a player, you had the feeling that you didn’t run much, although you did, because you were enjoying it. They are specific techniques for those of us who love good football.
For me, football is feeling like you’re in a theatre, and seeing tikitaka, passing the ball, it’s not the only way to win but its special. It’s Pep’s way.
Do you think Xavi should sign for Barcelona already?
I already said to Xavi not long ago: ‘You have to go back to Barcelona while Leo is still there’, because with him it would all be easier.
Xavi is a natural leader who knows how to manage emotions and, what’s more, he’s a very good guy. He’s up front, he understands football and I insisted. ‘Machine, you have to go back and try to do something with Messi still there.’
You always said that Andres Iniesta was the best you played with. What makes you angrier; that you didn’t win the Ballon d’Or or that Andres didn’t?
It never made me angry not to win it, because it’s a question of people’s opinions. That said, it’s disappointing for me that Andres never won it.
In an interview when I came to Barcelona, they asked me which player had caught my attention and I said Iniesta. There were 70 or 80 journalists in the room and they looked at me like I was crazy. Well, years later, they saw I was right.
Everyone has that image of you with Luis Aragones around your neck, what did you learn that day?
The grandfather was the man who decided my career. He called [Txiki] Berigistain to tell him that if he wanted a winning Barcelona, he should sign me.
Txiki didn’t believe him and Luis told me in his office, ‘your time has come to go to a big club, if you go to Barcelona, Barcelona will win.’
Txiki didn’t take it seriously at first because they were going to sign a Brazilian, Luis called [Joan] Laporta and he did pay attention.
I owe that part of my career to him. Emilio Butragueno, from Real Madrid, came to see me at my house in Palma to tell me to go back to Madrid, but I had already made my decision.