Happy birthday, Samuel Eto'o: One of the greatest strikers of the modern era

Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon cel

Whenever Barcelona are seemingly in crisis, it's bound to draw attention to their great sides of the early 21st century. 

Samuel Eto'o was at the head of the Blaugrana's attack for five years between 2004 and 2009 and won it all, including two Champions League titles. 

The striker's next spell at Inter Milan was shorter by comparison, but glorious nonetheless as he led Jose Mourinho's team to European dominance. 

Over the course of his career, Eto'o scored a phenomenal 359 goals and recorded 116 assists in 718 games. From his opening strike in the 2006 Champions League final to slipping the ball past Edwin van der Sar three years later, he was at the heart of some of Barca's most crucial moments. 

Yet in his native Cameroon, he will be equally remembered for his exploits for the national team, winning the Africa Cup of Nations on two occasions. Eto'o scored more goals in that competition (18) than any other player in its history. 

On the day he turns 39, BT Sport have shared an outstanding clip of some of his best European goals and his finishing really is something to behold. 

There are few players who struck a ball more sweetly. 

Looking back, it's a wonder Eto'o was never recognised with a Ballon d'Or, though by 2008 Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi's duopoly was under way. 

Mourinho shared that sentiment last year when his former player retired. 

"It's difficult to understand how Samuel Eto'o never won the Ballon d'Or with the impressive career he had" he told Cameroon Radio, per the BBC. 

"Samuel played for the best teams in the best leagues in the world. He scored an incredible amount of goals and was successful in different leagues." 

Had he not shared a stage with the likes of Messi and Ronaldinho, perhaps his legacy would be even greater. That can be the only reason why he sometimes hasn't been given the respect he deserves. 

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