Is Chelsea striker set for China move?

Samuel Eto'o Cameroon

Samuel Eto’o has claimed that he will remain in Europe, but a new report suggests he could move to Asia.

Samuel Eto’o has said it not once, but twice: he is going to play for a Champions League club next season.

The Cameroon international has already decided to leave Chelsea when his contract officially runs out next month. He will be busy playing for his country at the World Cup finals in Brazil then, but his future has already been decided.

Or so he says. According to Goal.com, the 33-year-old striker is in talks with Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande. It has been reported that the 2013 AFC Champions League winners’ manager Marcello Lippi wants to recruit him.

Eto’o is said to be willing to move to the defending Chinese Super League champions, but wants a salary of £8.1 million per season. This is proving to be a problem in the negotiations.

Now, this will come as news to many. After all, the former Barcelona and Inter Milan forward himself has insisted that he has no plans of “going to the United States or to the Middle East”, and that he will “continue to play [in] the Champions League”. Crucially, though, Eto’o has refused to divulge the name of his new club.

‘I will not tell you where, but I will be at the top level’, he said.

Why hasn’t Eto’o stated where he will play next? Maybe he has yet to fully agree terms with his new club? Maybe negotiations are still going on? Or maybe he is still exploring his options.

If so, then the latest reports suggesting that Eto’o is open to moving to China do have some substance. After all, the former Real Mallorca man is no stranger to playing for leagues that are not at the very top level.

Think back to 2011 when Eto’o left Inter Milan for Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala, who reportedly made him the world’s highest paid player (ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, if it needs pointing out). He played in the Russian Premier League but without much success, and joined Chelsea on a one-year contract last summer.

At 33 and playing in a very physical league, Eto’o did well to score 12 goals in 35 appearances in all competitions for the Premier League giants. And now he is back on the transfer market as a free agent.

Would Eto’o go to China? His salary would be massive, but would he really enjoy Asian football? Didier Drogba left Chelsea for Shanghai Shenhua in the summer of 2012, but six months later he was back in Europe (at Galatasaray). Nicolas Anelka also had a spell in China, but returned to Europe; the same goes for former Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita.

Perhaps Eto’o is weighing up his options, but the manner in which he has insisted that “physically and mentally” he feels “great” implies that staying in Europe would be his first choice.

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