Wed, Feb 14, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Knee kept Eto'o out of game: Barcelona

AP , MADRID

FC Barcelona's striker Samuel Eto'o runs during his Primera Division match against Osasuna in November. Eto'o did not come off the bench in Sunday's match against Racing Santander for physical reasons.

PHOTO: EPA

FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta denied Samuel Eto'o had refused to play on Sunday, saying the striker opted out for physical reasons.

"His knee needs time to warm up and he didn't have enough time. He preferred to be careful," Laporta was quoted as saying by the Web site of sports daily Marca. "He didn't do anything inappropriate or wrong. There is no way it can be deduced that Eto'o refused to play soccer for Barcelona."

The Cameroon striker wouldn't leave the bench after assistant coach Eusebio Sacristan instructed him to prepare to enter as a late substitute in Barcelona's 2-0 league win over Racing Santander at Camp Nou stadium.

Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard, visibly irritated during Sunday's post-match news conference, described the striker's refusal as "a shame."

Rijkaard is reportedly still awaiting an apology from Eto'o.

Eto'o had been expected to offer Rijkaard an explanation of his behavior at Monday's training. Instead, he stayed in the club gymnasium, apparently because of a painful knee, El Pais reported yesterday.

Rijkaard is likely to decide what action to take after he has spoken to the player. Eto'o risks being fined or even dropped from Barcelona's squad for Sunday's Spanish league game at Valencia.

However, Laporta implied a punishment wouldn't be necessary.

"When he speaks to Frank it will all be cleared up," said Laporta, who spoke to Eto'o on Monday. "Rijkaard is a master when it comes to solving this type of thing."

Eto'o has only recently returned from a four-month absence following a serious right knee injury he picked up in a Champions League match at Werder Bremen.

The 26-year-old striker reappeared for five minutes at the end of Barcelona's 0-0 draw with Osasuna on Feb. 4 and reportedly felt he deserved more time on the field on Sunday.

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