This article forms part of our The Ones That Got Away feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern take a look back at players linked with moves in the past, and see how they would have made an impact had they signed for the interested side.
Alex McLeish had already missed out on a number of players in the past whilst manager of Rangers that went on to become Barcelona stalwarts, with the likes of Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta having both been on his radar at some point in the early ’00s.
Indeed, it is always difficult to assume and picture how well a player will turn out during their career. Some players appear to have it all, whilst others have a great start and then fall into obscurity – Freddy Adu might be a player that can fall into that category – Pele did compare him to Mozart, after all.
However, it would seem McLeish also had the opportunity to bring a player to Ibrox before he made himself a star name at Barcelona (and elsewhere), although he missed out as he decided the player was not his ‘top signing priority’.
According to a report by BBC Sport in 2002, Rangers were one of a number of British clubs thought to have been interested in acquiring Samuel Eto’o when he was still playing his football with Real Mallorca and could have, potentially, been available for a knock-down fee with the Balearic Island outfit thought to have been in financial trouble.
Speaking to the club’s official website (via the report), though, it appeared McLeish did not take as much of a liking as he, perhaps, ought to have as he said: “Samuel Eto’o is a player I like, but there are a lot of players out there that I like. He is not the number one target.
“There were a number of excellent players on show in the Cameroon-Argentina game which Andy watched, including Marc-Vivien Foe, who is a midfield player.
“There are a lot of players out there who we would love to bring to Rangers, but we will do it when the time is right.”
Once with the Blaugrana, the Cameroonian legend appeared to take his ability to find the net up another level, as he managed to bag 130 goals in his 199 appearances for the Catalans (TransferMarkt).
In those appearances, he helped Barcelona to three La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, two Spanish Super Cups and two Champions League titles as he ended his time in Spain trophy-laden.
Of course, Eto’o would go on to turn out for Inter Milan, Anzhi Makhachkala (where he became one of the world’s highest-paid footballers), Chelsea, Everton and spells in Turkey as he winded down his rather prolific career – 359 goals in 718 total appearances.
Indeed, Rangers (and Steven Gerrard) now have their own prolific forward leading the line in Alfredo Morelos and his goals have helped turn the club back into the competitive force they once were and to the top of the Scottish Premiership.
Having bagged 14 goals in 19 matches so far this season, the 23-year-old Colombia international has been deadly for the Gers, with 62 goals in 110 games – a record that could, perhaps, be argued is similar to Eto’o’s whilst he was at Mallorca due to the nature of competition in Scotland.
Morelos may have only cost Rangers £1m from HJK Helsinki and has gone on to prove that he was a masterstroke of a deal for Pedro Caixinha, however McLeish could have completed his own in 2002 as he would have been able to partner the Cameroonian with the likes of Tore Andre Flo, Shota Averladze, Michael Mols and Peter Lovenkrands at Ibrox (per TransferMarkt).
Rangers fans, do you think the club would have ever been able to bring Eto’o to Ibrox? Let us know your thoughts by sharing them below!
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