Andile Jali has confirmed his decision to return to the PSL, but with Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates all vying for his signature, where should the Bafana Bafana midfielder go? MARSHALL GOUTS explores.
After dropping a number of hints on his official Twitter account, the 27-year-old midfielder put an end to months of speculation regarding his future, when he appeared on Robert Marawa’s show on SuperSport TV and publicised his imminent return to South African shores following a four-year stay with KV Oostende in Belgium.
Jali, who is currently nursing a knee injury, has entered the final six months of his contract, making him eligible to negotiate his future with suitors. In explaining his decision, the former AmaTuks man cited his desire to be closer to his family.
‘This season has been very good and I was not scared to play my best football. I still have a few months that I will see out at Oostende.
‘There is going to be a new direction in my career from here. I am going back to finish up with my physio and everything, but I am coming back,’ he said
Having formed a formidable and almost telepathic-like understanding with Oupa Manyisa during his days at Pirates in their engine room, Jali is no stranger to the Absa Premiership and nor is his ability in doubt.
Anybody who bore witness to the Soweto giants’ infamous back-to-back treble feat can attest to Jali’s massive influence. Whether it be in the final third, or on the breakdown, Mhlekazi, as he is known, possesses bag loads of talent coupled with the fearlessness of a lion going into battle.
He could arguably walk into the starting lineup of any of the abovementioned teams and would no doubt be a massive addition to any squad.
The only question remains: Where exactly is Jali going to go?
There are two factors which stand Chiefs in bad stead if they are to try and lure Jali to Naturena. Firstly, Jali became a household name in South African football by plying his trade for arch-rivals Pirates.
Jali has been vocal in his support for Pirates since leaving the PSL and although we have seen players make the cross from Mayfair to Naturena (or vice-versa), one gets the sense that Jali has a deep sense of loyalty and will not join the likes of Arthur Zwane, Collins Mbesuma and Siyabonga Nomvethe (to name a few) in having played for both Soweto giants.
With his 28th birthday on the horizon, Jali is the ideal man to take over from the ageing Willard Katsande. However, even if the Glamour Boys pull out the chequebook to make the defensive-midfielder their marquee signing, a move to Naturena just seems unlikely. Then again, we have seen stranger things happen in football.
Unlike Pirates and Sundowns, Chiefs are yet to lift the Caf Champions League trophy, which could prove to be their biggest stumbling block in trying to secure Jali’s signature.
— aj15jali (@andilejali870) August 25, 2016
Home sweet home. Many people are expecting Jali to return to his former team and why wouldn’t he?
Under the leadership of Milutin Sredojevic and assistant Rhulani Mokwena, the Mayfair outfit have been transformed from a team that suffered their worst-ever finish in the PSL last season to a title-contending outfit.
Much fanfare was made of the acquisition of Thamsanqa Sangweni from Chippa United; however, the midfielder has only made three appearances in the PSL, prompting coach Micho to publicly state that the former Sundowns man will need to improve his game if he is to play for the club.
The uncertainty of Sangweni’s future at the club could open the door for a return for Jali.
Yes, Pirates are spoilt for choice in the defensive midfield position as they have the likes of Abbubaker Mobara, Marshall Munetsi, Sangweni and Issa Sarr; however, none of them has managed to cement a spot in the team alongside Musa Nyatama.
If Pirates do manage to sign Jali again, it would prove a massive signal of intent heading into the new season – a move that could inspire greatness. Double Treble loading?
— Mike Makaab (@MikeMakaab) May 20, 2016
Having worked with Jali during his days as Bafana Bafana mentor, Pitso Mosimane is said to be a huge fan of the diminutive midfielder, which could see Jingles do everything in his power to snap up his services.
With Hlompho Kekana (32) on the wrong side of 30 and midfield partner Tiyani Mabunda (29) quickly approaching 30, one could argue that if Sundowns were to elevate their game even more, the presence of Jali would greatly help – especially in their bid to reclaim the Caf Champions League trophy.
One thing that Sundowns do have is money and an abundance of it, so breaking the bank shouldn’t be a problem and, with Mosimane known to get what he wants, South African football fans might just get to see the midfield duo Jali and Manyisa being reunited at Sundowns.
A major coup for Sundowns would be signing Jali in the next transfer window‚ which would allow him to be registered for the later stages of the continental tournament in August when clubs are allowed to add more players to their squad.
Jali’s loyalties might lie with former team Pirates, but when coach Pitso Mosimane wants something, he often does get it.
Who can forget his relentless successful pursuit of former Ajax Cape Town superstar Khama Billiat?
‘Downs will probably cop Jali. Pitso is very, very aggressive when he chases a player. Ask Billiat at Ajax. I’m still shook from hearing he used to call him elke dag promising him a few millions.
— Khune’s IG Manager (@usiseko) March 29, 2018
Follow on Twitter @MarshallGouts
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