Sunday, 24 July 2016

VILAKAZI GETS HIS BIG MOVE and the South African transfer window finally gets a deal worth shouting about

NOT JUST A CLEVER BOY: Sibusiso Vilakazi finally secured his big move
"Bidvest Wits FC are pleased to announce that they have reached agreement with Mamelodi Sundowns for the transfer of Sibusiso Vilakazi to Mamelodi Sundowns for an undisclosed transfer fee as well as the transfers of Cuthbert Malajila and Mogakolodi Ngele to Bidvest Wits FC."

And there it is, the announcement we've been waiting for throughout another dodgy South African transfer window, another bleak mid-winter for our game.

Amid the usual chaos of free signings and false rumours comes the three-man deal I predicted weeks ago: Sibusiso Vilakazi, for so long South Africa’s premier midfielder, has gone to champions Mamelodi Sundowns just as they approach serious heights in the Africa (though he's cup tied, and won't be part of that).

And in return, the selling club Bidvest Wits get two quality KaboYellow players: proven Zimbabwean goal-scorer Cuthbert Malajila and  Botswana’s lively Mogakolodi Ngele. Three international players, three exciting moves.

Amid the unseemly scramble for free agents and cheap discards, I was clinging to Bernard Morrison to provide the boost the PSL needs, his often delayed R3m deal from AS Vita was a shining beacon as Kaizer Chiefs, Chippa United and Baroka FC flew in flocks of freebies.

Even worse, Orlando Pirates cast a bleak shadow over the integrity of our game when they signed Justice Chabalala, Sello Japhta and Ayanda Nkosi from Free State Stars along with their assistant manager Bradley Carnell.

Pirates, run by ageless PSL chairman, Irvin Khoza, raided Bethlehem and had all three players signed up less than 24 hours after the ANC’s MEC for education in Gauteng Panyaza Lesufi had announced he was going to buy Ea Lla Koto in his frantic bid to get a team not called Moroka Swallows back in to the top flight.

History shows the move never happened. The R55m from “a consortium of fans” was pie in the sky for both Swallows and Stars. Khoza pretended he didn’t know much about the deal but French boss Denis Lavagne must now resume pre-season training without his assistant and three of his top players.

That raid by the Pirates left me all at sea, a bit like their apparently free sale to Chippa United of three top South African youngsters Menzi Masuku, Thembinkosi Lorch and Maselaelo Seanego. Absolute madness.

We had Cape Town City scrambling around for “another 10 players”, Chippa and promoted pair Baroka and Highlands Park naming whole teams of free signings and SuperSport United drafting three free Kaizer Chiefs rejects. Utter chaos, not a confirmed transfer fee in sight.

But Sunday’s transfers between the Clever Boys and Masandawana have swept away my cynicism.

While Chiefs continue their search for ANYBODY from Chicken Inn to Mozambique to replace the 20 players kicked out by Bobby Motaung after the end of last season, Pitso Mosimane and Gavin Hunt, the nation’s two top coaches, have been shrewd and worked hard for their men, like two European masters playing chess.

Vilakazi, a former PSL player of the year, has wanted a move for two years. Still just 26, the Soweto-born star has played 21 times for Bafana Bafana, scoring four. The move to Tshwane could be just the rebirth required for one of South Africa’s top talents, playing next to Keagan Dolly, Leonard Castro and Khama Billiat will bring out the best in him after two quiet seasons.

PROVEN GOAL-SCORER: Cuthbert Malajila
Alternatively Cuthbert Lifasi Malajila, 30, over-shadowed by the CBD in Pretoria, will get the opportunity to strike alongside James Keene and kick-start his goal-scoring career which featured 8 goals in 17 games for Zimbabwe.

And Botswana’s Ngele, 25, so impressive at Platinum Stars, will get a regular start under Gavin Hunt as he builds on 15 games and two goals for Botswana.

With Sundowns winning in Algeria and Egypt during the off-season, Pitso Mosimane’s men can only get stronger, while Wits, second last season, will be up there again, especially with Darren Keete now signed on a free from Belgium to fight for the goalkeeper’s jersey with the impressive Moeneeb Josephs.

There’s still plenty of time before the new season - the PSL won’t even kick off until after the Olympics, though we still await the full fixture list, a month later than normal - so Chiefs and Cape Town City could still surprise us with some quality signings.

Like crowd figures, South African transfer fees are carefully guarded secrets. It's hard to assess who has done the best business in a nation where the PSL executive are happy to sell top flight clubs for less than their annual bonus.

But from where I stand, Masandawana, the Clever Boys and SuperSport United are patiently building title-threatening squads while the others fiddle among the discards. 

And for cashless, ripped apart Free State Stars, how can anything other than relegation loom? The White Sangoma has spoken.

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