Tuesday 30 June ~
The website Popbitch once ran a survey to find the most ridiculous backstage “rider” asked for by a celebrity. By common consent Maria Carey, notorious for making outrageous demands, was the winner with a request for "some cute puppies" to be distributed around her scented candle-filled dressing room, where they would presumably be expected to gambol engagingly rather than crouch in the corners cocking their legs. In such circumstances, you wonder who looks more ridiculous – the person making the demands or the people who cave in to them. Which brings us to Samuel Eto'o.
Manchester City have offered Barcelona around £25 million for their Cameroonian striker. Barcelona seem prepared to sell, partly because Eto'o will be a free agent in a year's time and also because his sale will help to finance several new signings. They may be Spanish and European champions but Barcelona don't want to be seem to be lagging behind Real Madrid who have spent around £135m on just two players with more to come. City are said to have offered Eto'o £250,000 as a basic weekly salary, which would make him the highest paid player in the world.
Eto'o however is stalling on the move because he wants to be given around half the transfer fee as a pay-off. The players' agent has called a press conference today at which he may well declare, with tongue clamped in cheek, that his client's love for Barcelona is such that he can't possibly leave for at least another year. Manchester City, meanwhile, have trumpeted the arrival of Eto'o as "a coup" as though they have artfully negotiated a cut-price deal. Eto'o had surely asked for an absurd weekly wage in the expectation that City would refuse to pay it – which would save him the bother of having to turn out for a team who can't hope to be in the Champions League for at least a year.
The Eto'o negotiations serve as the best example yet of the City paradox. Their new owners want to barge into the top four as soon possible via lavish spending. But any big-name international players who agree to come will be doing so entirely for the money, an attitude which is likely to prevent the reshaped team developing the unity and sense of purpose they will need to match up to the current top four. If City cave in to Eto'o's next set of demands and fill the dressing room with fluffy kittens, they will only have themselves to blame.