Barca’s Eto’o out, Rijkaard staying

-File photo

Barcelona’s three-time African Footballer of the Year Samuel Eto’o has been left out of the Spanish league leaders’ team that will play at Valencia on Sunday.
The Catalan club’s coach Frank Rijkaard said at a press conference on Saturday that Eto’o had been left out of the squad to face the 2002 and 2004 Spanish champions at the player’s own request.
“Eto’o has told me he feels his fitness is improving but that he would prefer to stay in Barcelona to continue working to achieve his peak form,” said Rijkaard.
However, there must now be a question mark over whether Eto’o will be in the Barca squad to face English Premiership side Liverpool in the Champions League last 16 first leg match on Wednesday.
The encounter pits the last two winner’s of Europe’s top club competition against each other.
With Eto’o not in the Barcelona squad, Rijkaard has recalled his under-performing Icelandic international Eidur Gudjohnsen.
The Cameroon striker’s absence for Barca’s crucial match at Valencia caps a strange week for Eto’o, Rijkaard and the team as a whole.
Eto’o criticised Rijkaard and his own team mate Ronaldinho on Monday in the wake of the pair of them making seemingly adverse comments about him refusing to come on as a late substitute in last Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Racing Santander.
The matter was then apparently smoothed over on Wednesday with Eto’o making a public display of reconciliation with Ronaldinho, hugging him during training although some Spanish commentators suggested the show was stage managed.
In the wake of Eto’o becoming friends again with his Brazilian colleague, Rijkaard and the club then decided against taking any action over the incident.
Rijkaard also poured cold water on the rumours that have been circulating in the Spanish media that he intends to leave at the end of the season.
“I’ve never said to anyone that I’m leaving,” said the Dutch coach on Saturday.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2007