Are Barça backtracking on Mad Sammy?

After what feels like decades of speculation from Sport and Mundo Deportivo concerning Mad Sammy Eto'o being replaced by Adebayor / Berbatov / Zlatan / Chipper from Operación Triunfo it seems that, like Fernando Gago taking a shot, both papers may have been some way off the mark. Barça are slowly starting to spin the line that they are chuffed to bits with the pre-season performances of the Cameroonian striker and his all round sprightly attitude - not that La Liga Loca thinks there was anything wrong with it in the first place, aside from Eto'o being a bit of a grumpy pants on the odd occasion. On Monday, Andrés Iniesta was the third major player to offer a friendly word of support to his formerly departing colleague by commenting that "I hope Eto'o stays with us."

Eto'o nets in Barca's pre-season tour of Scotland 

And Joan Laporta has dropped further hints that the club may be backtracking on their earlier pledge to sell Sammy. "Nothing is irreversible nor definite in his case," announced the club president at the beginning of the week, despite Wednesday's Sport droning on for some considerable time on the story that Pep Guardiola desperately wants to see the back of Eto'o. Meanwhile, Mundo Deportivo's spider sense is tingling and they feel that Barça's U-turn has nothing to do with a new found love of Sammy, but because nobody can afford to pay Eto'o's superstar wage demands. The paper writes that the forward will only settle for 10 million euros a year net, four more than he currently receives at the Catalan club. And that is a wage structure busting amount that is scaring off potential suitors from Tottenham to Tashkent. The other area of uncertainty with Barcelona concerns the imminent future of Leo Messi who is caught in a tug of love - not in the Ever Banega sense - between the Argentine Olympic team and his wage paying, Champions League focussed Barça side. Both parties are appealing to different organisations to resolve the dispute and FIFA are due to make a ruling on Wednesday as to what will happen to the tiny terror. Barça are doing the classic Real Betis perfected tactic of sticking their fingers in their ears and hoping the whole problem goes away.

Should I stay or should I go? 

And it may well work, considering the manager of the Argentine Olympic team, Sergio Batista, has given his charge till Friday to get his booty on a Beijing bound plane or not bother coming at all. Should that happen, then Messi will be feeling the wrath of Maradona, whose mood appears to have soured considerably since hearing the news that Kun Agüero has knocked up his daughter, Giannina.The other thrilling Barcelona based excitement is that Santiago Ezquerro has moved to Osasuna after three years of bench warming and cone collecting in a spell in Catalonia that amounted to six solitary starts. It has taken Marca just 24 hours to contradict super snooper, Roberto Gómez's scoop that it will be Ronaldo or nothing for the club in the transfer market in August. Wednesday's edition reports that the club will be continuing the 'spanishisation' of their side by signing Rafael Van der Vaart over the weekend with Madrid due to play his Hamburg side on Saturday in a friendly in London. Real Madrid have also confirmed the transfer of Roberto Soldado to Getafe - a player who never got a decent chance at the Bernabeu, says a sniffy La Liga Loca. "I'm sad at having left Real Madrid after all those years there," says the probably very bitter striker. Robinho appears to be continuing his sulk fest at the club's training camp in Austria with negotiations having stalled on his contract, according to Mundo Deportivo, and his agent complaining that he is being used and abused by Ramón Calderón.Even a returning Iker Casillas admitted that the Brazilian striker was not his normal irritating, hyperactive, Gravesen-baiting self. "I saw him a bit sadder than usual," mused the golden goalie.

Robinho: Not his usual happy-go-lucky self 

AS have despatched his magnificent crawliness, Tomas Roncero, to interview Ramón Calderón and to be fair to the man, he does his best to give the Real Madrid big cheese a tough time with questions such as "isn't it indecent in this sociological context to talk about paying 80 or 90 million euros for Cristiano?"Calderón chose not to answer the charge directly by bragging about how much cash the club has. Again. Athletic Bilbao will now be six million euros richer over the next three years having signed a shirt sponsorship deal with local fast food giants, Basque Burger. Not really. The agreement is with Petronor - a former local company, but now a subsidiary of Repsol. "It's only a strong economic structure that guarantees our philosophy," explained club president, Fernando García Macua, quite reasonably.

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