Everton add cover and tutelage for Lukaku with Eto'o signing
Everton's forward line has too often resembled a striking graveyard in recent years. You could even argue a strong case for the famine stretching to decades. Full of industry, but low on ability and goals, the options rarely inspired much confidence. Aside from 2007-08, when Yakubu prospered, there has been little to write home about.
One possible explanation, especially in the early years of the David Moyes tenure, is that the style of play was not conducive to goal-scoring forwards. Instead of lingering in the penalty area, forwards spent their time chasing lost causes into the channels.
The situation reached a nadir less than three years ago, before the arrival of temporary success Nikica Jelavic, when the striking options available to Moyes consisted of Denis Stracqualursi, Apostolos Vellios, Victor Anichebe and a fast-fading Louis Saha.
Time changes plenty in football, thankfully. Fast forward to the present day, the current picture is significantly rosier. Notwithstanding Arouna Kone, whose most worthwhile contribution thus far is a well-taken picture of him on a camel, the Blues possess two genuine goal threats in Romelu Lukaku and new recruit Samuel Eto'o.
Signing a two-year deal on Tuesday, Eto'o is the fifth major signing of the summer and adds much-needed firepower to a side lacking in the final third. With Kone still working his way back from injury and record signing Lukaku short of full fitness, Eto'o can ease the burden on makeshift forward Steven Naismith.
For all his wealth of experience and goals, however, there are still those bound to look upon the move unfavourably. Eto'o won few admirers when he appeared to put finances ahead of ambition with his move to Anzhi Makhachkala in 2011.
That is not the case this time around, though, according to his new manager Roberto Martinez: "He had many options abroad. It could be a financial decision or a footballing decision, but he wanted to make a footballing decision and he chose us. That is a compliment."
Monetary grumblings and mercenary accusations aside, it boils down to two things: Everton need goals and attacking reinforcements; Eto'o provides both. Having spent last season overly reliant on Lukaku, with his understudies Kone and the now-departed Lacina Traore warming the treatment tables, another forward was imperative.
Furthermore, as the transfer window nears its conclusion, his signature on a free transfer is certainly more rational than lavishing millions on the unproven or those carrying inflated price tags.
Once settled, Eto'o will surely hope to replicate the success of Sylvain Distin and, more recently, Gareth Barry. Both have excelled, especially Barry, since signing for Everton beyond their 30th birthday.
Spending most of his career at the highest level, the one-time Barcelona star, boasting more honours than most of his teammates combined, offers plenty of experience, and that might prove invaluable, especially in the Europa League. For many of the squad, this is their first taste of Europe with Everton, while others are yet to sample European football at all.
Able to impart words of wisdom to Lukaku, Eto'o can also help smooth out some of the rough edges in his young teammate's game. After all, the legs of the Cameroonian are not as fast as they once were, but there are still few capable of matching the penalty-box nous and finishing ability of the four-time African footballer of the year. Lukaku could learn plenty for his new teammate.
Easing fears about his ability and the prospect of age reducing him to a shadow of his best, Eto'o showed last season, despite being a bit-part player at Chelsea, that he could still deliver at this level, grabbing nine goals in just 16 starts and five substitute appearances.
Putting that into context, Lukaku (15) was the only Everton player to better his nine-goal return. Outscoring the remainder of the Toffees' squad in just 21 matches is no mean feat. And Eto'o can point to a better minutes-per-goal ratio, scoring a goal every 145 minutes, compared to Lukaku's rate of a goal every 171 minutes.
Providing experience, goals and a necessary third attacking addition, the arrival of Eto'o is a no-brainer on the part of the club. As for the player himself, he will know that goals and key contributions are the best way to silence the doubters and repay the faith (and wages) invested in him by Martinez.