Soccer-World-Predator Eto'o seeks golden swansong

By William Schomberg LONDON, April 28 (Reuters) - Samuel Eto'o has proved his doubters wrong by outshining Chelsea's other strikers this season. According to his boss Jose Mourinho, he did not have much competition, but it will be tougher for the 33-year-old to leave his mark when he captains Cameroon at his fourth and probably last World Cup in Brazil. Few give Cameroon much chance of progressing beyond the group stage of the tournament in which they face Mexico, Croatia and hosts Brazil. The problems lie not just with the other teams. Eto'o accused fellow players in the national side of not passing him the ball last year, adding to friction in the squad which has struggled to live up to the glory days of the 1990 World Cup when Cameroon reached the quarter-finals. Eto'o announced he was retiring from international football last year but quickly reversed that decision, saying Cameroon's president had pleaded with him to return to the team. The tournament gives Eto'o a chance to cement his status as possibly Africa's greatest ever player. He has scored 55 goals in 112 games for his country since making his international debut as a 16-year-old. Nicknamed "Little Milla" as a child - after Cameroon striker Roger Milla, who shone at the 1990 World Cup - Eto'o took African football to a new level. He has been named the continent's player of the year an unprecedented four times. The striker first hit the headlines with Mallorca and went on to win the Champions League twice with Barcelona and again with Inter Milan. Eto'o now lacks the explosive pace that helped him score 152 goals at Barcelona. But his 12 strikes for Chelsea this season (up to and including April 19) have answered those who questioned whether he could still compete at the highest level after two years in relative but lucrative obscurity with Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, where he became the world's highest paid player on a reported salary of 365,000 euros ($500,000) a week. Eto'o has shown his predatory instincts remain strong, snatching several opportunist goals for Chelsea, closing down goalkeepers and defenders and hoping for a lucky break. He destroyed Manchester United with a hat-trick in January and scored vital goals against title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal. His form has been good enough to make him the first choice as centre-forward in big games for Mourinho ahead of the waning Fernando Torres, even though the Chelsea coach has made no secret of his dissatisfaction with his striking options. As he approaches the end of his playing career, Eto'o has plans for life off the pitch. As well as funding academies to develop young players in Cameroon and neighbouring Gabon, he has set up a mobile phone firm bearing his name in his home country. Some supporters think he may be planning a political career too, something he could probably afford to bankroll after playing for some of Europe's richest clubs. ($1 = 0.7248 Euros) (Editing by Ed Osmond and Mike Collett)

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