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21 Feb 2007 11:16
Three-time African Player of the Year Samuel Eto’o has been left out of the Barcelona squad to play Liverpool in their Champions League last 16 first-leg match on Wednesday.
The Catalan club said on Tuesday that last season’s Spanish First Division top scorer would miss the clash between the last two Champions League winners because he was still not 100% fit.
“Eto’o and Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard talked this evening [Tuesday] and decided together that it would be better not force his recovery,” a Barcelona spokesperson told Spanish media.
Rijkaard had earlier on Tuesday suggested that Eto’o would be ready to play his part in the Catalan club’s 18-man squad that will face the men from Merseyside.
“Psychologically he’s fine and physically he’s getting better all the time,” commented Rijkaard at a press conference before Barcelona’s final training session in preparation for game.
Despite the apparently calm atmosphere concerning Eto’o and his delayed return to playing for Barca, many Spanish pundits on Tuesday suggested that it was further evidence that a rift has emerged between Eto’o and Rijkaard.
The Cameroon striker’s refusal to take the field for the Spanish league leaders against Racing Santander 10 days ago led to Rijkaard, and also Barca’s World Player of the Year Ronaldinho, to question his commitment to the club.
The trio subsequently smoothed over the public dispute but Eto’o himself then requested not be part of the Barca squad that lost 2-1 at Valencia on Sunday.
The player has only played 10 minutes of competitive football, just over two weeks ago after coming on as a late substitute at Osasuna, since suffering a right knee injury in the Champions League group stages against Werder Bremen last September.
Eto’o was subsequently out of action for more than four months until he returned to full training on February 1.
Two other players left out of the Barca squad on Tuesday were Brazilian internationals Sylvinho and Edmilson.
Veteran French defender Lilian Thuram is recalled to the Barcelona squad for the first since suffering a left calf strain against Gimnastic Tarragona on January 21.
Thuram completed his first full training session since sustaining the injury on Monday.—Sapa-AFP
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