Yesterday, Sky's Goals on Sunday program featured an interview with former Bolton Wanderers manager and current Wet Ham boss Big Sam Allardyce. The topics of conversation varied and ranged from the Hammers' capture of Andy Carroll and why they didn't go for Dimitar Berbatov to Big Sam's famous direct style of play. One of the most interesting anecdotes from the conversation was about former Barcelona great and now rich Anzhi player, Samuel Eto'o.
During the interview, Allardyce claimed that Bolton had the chance to bring in the then Mallorca striker for a fee of €8 million and that chairman Phil Gartside could not be convinced to make the funds available. Hit the jump for a look at the facts.
Here's the quote from Big Sam:
He was at Mallorca and I had to try and convince the chairman at the time that the eight million euros would have been the best eight million euros he'd ever spent and this player would be worth 20 to 25 million in the future. The thing was, we could have got him to come to England and at that particular time he would have been a bit of a capture.
In January of 2000, a then-eighteen year old Eto'o was sent on loan to Mallorca from Real Madrid after failing to impress on an earlier loan at Espanyol (where me didn't manage a single appearance). In the Mallorca stint, Eto'o managed six goals from 19 appearances in the second half of the season, impressing his new bosses.
At the start of the following season, Mallorca agreed with Madrid for the permanent transfer of Eto'o. The player would be a record signing for his new club at a reported fee of £4.4 million. He stayed with them until 2004. In his four seasons with the club, Samuel scored 48 in 120 and gained widespread attention throughout La Liga. Barcelona would then purchase him that summer for a fee of €24 million.
Big Sam, who managed Bolton from 1999 to 2007 would have tried to sign Eto'o between 2000 and 2004, likely closer to the first date. At that point, Eto'o was under 21 years old and €8 million for a player of that age is absurd. Many still believe that Bolton signing Marvin Sordell (23 years old) for about £3 million last winter was a total waste. To put it into perspective, just five years before Eto'o signed for Mallorca, Stan Collymore held the record for the highest English transfer fee at £8.5 million in his move to Liverpool from Nottingham Forest. Collymore scored 41 goals in 65 appearances for Nottingham Forest.
Bolton's record transfers at that point were much more modest than that. Until 2005, when Bolton paid £4 million for El-Hadji Diouf, their record transfer fees came in 1997 when the pair of Robbie Elliott and Dean Holdsworth cost £6 million. The record was broken in 2006 with the £8 million signing of Nicolas Anelka and again two years later with the £8.2 million Elmander transfer.
The Trotters have never had much money to spend and the supposed case with Eto'o is no different. Even now, 10+ years after the fact, the team struggles to sign players for at a third of that price. It's really understandable that if (and it's a big if) Allardyce had the chance to sign Eto'o that Gartside did not want to release the relatively massive funds for an unproven youngster in La Liga.