Samuel Eto'o, the 30-year-old Cameroonian soccer player, is leaving the glitz and prestige of Serie A's Inter Milan to play "for an obscure club in the violence-wracked Caucasus region of Dagestan, Russia." From Milan, one of the world's fashion capitals, to Dagestan: the land of the mountains. This would be a very bad rap if it weren't for the fact that with the deal, Eto'o might just become the highest-paid professional athlete in the world.
The club, Anzhi Makhachkala, reportedly agreed to pay Inter Milan a $39 million transfer fee to obtain Eto'o, who will make about $29 million per season. The Wall Street Journal has more on the deal:
In a deal announced Tuesday, Anzhi Makhachkala of the Russian Premier League agreed to pay [Inter Milan] a transfer fee of $39 million to acquire the 30-year-old forward. The team also agreed to a contract with the player that, given Russia's favorable tax rates, would net Eto'o $29 million per season. That not only eclipses the estimated $17.4 million salary Cristiano Ronaldo earns at Real Madrid, it also outstrips the net income of top U.S. stars like Manning, Rodriguez and Kobe Bryant.
The only athlete on earth who might pocket as much is Fernando Alonso, the Spanish Formula One driver for team Ferrari whose contract is worth more than $40 million per year.
Anzhi is owned by Suleiman Kerimov, a (surprise!) Russian oil billionaire and owner of one of the world's "most outrageous yachts." The WSJ describes him as "a lover of elaborate parties and exotic sports cars," and we'll just leave it at that. Kerimov has spent $60 million on transfer fees for star players since he bought the club in January, and his team is now fourth in the Premier League. Eto'o will join a crew of talented Brazilian players that signed with the team under Kerimov's ownership—and like the rest of his teammates, he'll fly in from Moscow for home games to avoid the bouts of civilian violence in Makhachkala.
Eto'o is a great player: In five seasons with Barcelona, he scored 108 goals in 145 appearances, and he had a team-high 37 goals for Inter Milan last season. Under his new contract, and with that productivity, he could earn close to a million dollars a goal in the Land Of The Mountains. And perhaps one day, he too will own an outrageous yacht.