Benni McCarthy has set himself one final target after 16 gruelling years of professional football – he wants to become the first man to win both the European and African Champions League trophies.
And to do that of course, the 33-year-old will simply have to join South African champions Orlando Pirates .
McCarthy famously came on in the 78th minute of the 2004 Champions League final to help Jose Mourinho’s Porto defeat Monaco 3-0 at Arena AufSchalke in Germany after scoring twice against Manchester United during qualifying.
Since then McCarthy has suffered mixed fortunes – he scored 37 goals in 109 games for Blackburn Rovers before his well-documented weight problems in a goal-free year at West Ham in 2010.
Released by the Hammers earlier this year amid a plethora of “fat chance” headlines, McCarthy – who failed to make South Africa’s World Cup squad last year - is currently out of contract and training with Ajax in Cape Town.
And despite noises about a permanent move back to the Mother City where he was born in 1977, McCarthy said yesterday: "Pirates are talking about winning the African Champions League – I could become the first player to win the Champions League in Europe and in Africa. That would be a very special record.
. "I don't really see myself starting all over again in another country. I've moved around enough.
"As a kid, growing up playing football, you always wanted to play for Kaizer Chiefs or Pirates; you wanted to play in that big Soweto derby.
"Me, I wanted to play for Chiefs, but really, Chiefs or Pirates, that was the dream. They are like Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain; every kid's dream.
"I feel a lot for Ajax, of course, but I'm not sure of their ambitions on the pitch – what they are saying to me is more about attracting more fans. I'm still ambitious to win more trophies.”
Pirates chairman Irvin “Iron Duke” Khoza and his new Brazilian boss Jusio Cesar Leal are apparently interested in the man who has played over 500 games at the top level, scoring nearly 200 goals, including a record 31 in 79 games for Bafana Bafana.
Even Ajax chief exec George Comitis said: "I know Irvin has been on to Benni’s agent – Benni told me that himself – but I don't know how serious they are."
McCarthy’s agent Rob Moore had been looking for an American or Arabic retirement home for his iconic striker – but McCarthy admitted last week: "I’ve played abroad and I think what I learned over there I can give back and inspire some of the younger kids to see a different side to life.
“If Benni comes home and I make a good living for myself… I live alright… maybe that’s what every kid from the street would want to have.
“I got distracted at West Ham but I’m starting to get the love back for football.”
Last night Pirates official Floyd Mbele was quoted as saying he was “unaware of any interest” in McCarthy, who will be available for free after a reported £1.5m pay-out terminated his West Ham nightmare.
Comitis refused to accept McCarthy isn't tempted by his former club Ajax, last season’s unlucky SAPL runners-up, adding: "I know Benni really wants to be with us, here at home in Cape Town, despite all the talk about winning another Champions League."
And McCarthy insists big-spending Mamelodi Sundowns, under new Dutch megastar Johan Neeskens, are “still sniffing” too.
But what about the fines for being fat at West Ham? The headlines which surrounded his torrid year in London’s East End? He grins: “I’ve been working. Changed my life, started to live healthier, looked after myself a bit more because I realised the healthier you are, the longer you live. I want to live to see my kids have kids one day; so that just made me change certain ways of my life and hopefully I can maintain and achieve my goals.
“It all depends on what my legs say. At the moment, I can still juggle it, I can still keep up with the younger boys so I don’t see any point for me yet to throw in the towel.
“When you start having kids your life changes, you can’t be an irresponsible, stupid little boy anymore.”