Jose Mourinho doesn’t understand how his former Inter Milan star Samuel Eto’o never won a deserved Ballon d’Or during his playing career.
Following a short stint in the Qatar Star League for Qatar SC, Eto’o called time on a stunning 22-year trophy-career that saw him star for some of Europe’s biggest clubs in Inter and Barcelona.
The former striker also won the Africa Player of the Year accolade a record-equalling four times alongside the Ivory Coast’s Yaya Toure.
However, the closest he came to winning an international award came in 2005 in a third-place finish for FIFA’s now-defunct World Player of the Year prize behind Frank Lampard and winner Ronaldinho.
Despite continuing to impress in Europe, Eto’o struggled to claim any major individual honours in an era dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
But Mourinho, who coached Eto’o during Inter’s historic treble-winning campaign and later at Chelsea, believes the Cameroon legend deserved to be crowned the world’s best at least once.
“It’s difficult to understand how Samuel Eto’o never won the Ballon d’Or with the impressive career he had,” Mourinho told Cameroon Radio.
“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.
“He played three champions league finals, winning two with Barcelona and scoring in both finals. He also won one champions league at Inter and won many league titles.
“He was the best striker in the world for several years and I think he deserved a Ballon d’Or but these are things out of our control.”
Eto’o is among a star-studded African cast, which include Didier Drogba and Michael Essien, to have starred under Mourinho.
And the Portuguese is confident Eto’o will become a great success in retirement.
“Samuel’s career was very impressive and he was one of the best strikers in the world for many years,” added Mourinho.
“He’s an absolutely fantastic player and the most important thing for a footballer is his contribution to his team for victories.
“Samuel was a great individual player but was always a team player. He was always giving everything he could for his team to be successful. He is a trophy winner. He won all the important competitions and he had a very phenomenal career.
“He was almost an unstoppable player but his qualities as a man at some point became more important. He was a good colleague and he could do all for his team to win games.
“While at Inter we played Barcelona in the champions league semi-finals, we were with 10 men and Eto’o played the entire game almost at right back. He sacrificed himself for the team and played at the position to ensure we win.
“That’s what the team needed at that moment. In Milan we had won 3-1, going to Camp Nou, we didn’t need to score, we just needed to get to the final and he understood this. He did what was necessary for the team to go through to the final.
“These are great human qualities and I have no doubts Eto’o will be successful after retirement.”
Eto’o is currently on a sabbatical from football, and plans to spend time with his family before making any plans.