Eto’o says he will decide his own future

Liverpool target Samuel Eto'o's long-awaited exclusive
interview with the Times has finally appeared – and in it he says he really
doesn't want to leave Barcelona – and that he will get his own way.

The interview was with Rafa Benítez's friend, Spanish
journalist and Liverpool supporter Guillem Balague. Balague himself says that, "according
to sources at the Catalan club, the Cameroon forward is available for transfer
as part of a strategy that includes Ronaldinho staying – with the hope of
recuperating his best physical form after a long rest – and Thierry Henry

Henry has been linked all this summer with a move to
Barcelona. He was also spotted 200 times at Melwood but the idea he might move
to Barca has always seemed quite a credible one. He certainly refuses to deny
he'll be leaving, and has complained publicly about David Dein's departure. Now,
from what Eto'o has told Balague, Henry's arrival could be the reason he stays,
not the reason he goes. "I was chatting to him," said Eto'o, "while he was
boarding the plane that took him to the States to see the NBA final. He is a
great mate of mine and we will play all together. There is room for everybody."

If Rafael Benítez did get the funds, which seems unlikely
now, he would jump at the chance to sign Eto'o, a player he has had his eye on
for some time. Barcelona say he's not for sale, but is that because they want
to keep his fee high? Maybe Liverpool's new owners will have a change of heart
and give Rafa a budget he can use to make a decent bid for Eto'o, if not one
that matches the asking price. If he does, he'll be hoping Eto'o prefers
Liverpool, and is prepared to dig his heels in about where he goes. It looks
like Eto'o would be strong-willed enough to give that approach a go: "I am the
owner of my future and I have a very clear idea of what I want. The club cannot
force me to do anything, nobody can."

There are two ways of reading Eto'o's words: He wants to
stay at Barcelona, or he wants to stay at Barcelona if he's not allowed to go
the club of his choice. He fell out with Barca coach Frank Rijkaard, just
before the Catalan side faced Liverpool in the Champions League, saying the
Dutchman was a "bad person" – but now Joan Laporta, Barca's chairman, has said
Rijkaard is staying on as coach.

If Eto'o and Rijkaard are both staying, they must have made
up with each other. In fact this interview with Balague may actually have been
done before the announcement Rijkaard was staying, but even so Eto'o didn't
feel at that time that things would turn bad enough for him to leave: "I have a
very good relationship with the club, a very good one with the chairman, and I
don't think we will get to that point"

He's determined to stay, he says: "There are people
interested in me leaving, I know that. When I don't have anything more to give
Barcelona I will let the board and the coach know. But at the moment, someone
is building a huge lie, so big that everybody believes it – only I will decide
my future and I will continue here."

He was also quick to play down the rift between him and
Ronaldinho that was part of the public row from earlier in the year: "Ronnie
has things off the pitch I am not used to and vice versa, but we go out
partying together, we are two great players, we have nothing to envy of each
other. People look for the divisions, the crises. I really hope they mean well,
that they want to motivate us."

Eto'o feels the local press make problems for him and
Ronaldinho: "The Catalan press are divided between pro-Ronnie and pro-Eto'o.
But my battle, my fight, is Barcelona. I feel people prefer to twist my words,
not to hear what I am really saying."

It does seem that his words are along the lines of he'll do
whatever he wants to do – he'll stay if he wants to stay, and won't be forced
out to a club he doesn't want to join.

To read the full interview visit the
Times Online website