Former Mamelodi Sundowns forward Toni Silva is considering an early retirement from professional football.
The 25-year-old spent over six months at Sundowns during the 2018-19 season, but was unable to make his mark in South Africa’s top flight, making just 11 appearances while scoring twice before parting ways with the club.
The Guinea-Bissau international subsequently signed for Al-Ittihad in Egypt, with the Brazilians pocketing close to R4 million in terms of his transfer fee after he lashed out at Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane in an astonishing open letter accusing Mosimane of buying titles.
At 15, he was promising big things, having spent time in the youth set-ups at Benfica and Chelsea before moving to Liverpool, where he was regarded by some as a brighter prospect than Raheem Sterling.
Since leaving Liverpool seven years ago, Silva has played for eight clubs, including Dagenham and Sundowns in the Absa Premiership.
‘I used to speak with Paul Pogba when he was at Juventus and he was trying to help put me in touch with a better agent and with some clubs,’ Silva told BBC Sport.
‘But it didn’t work out. The problem is I have never had someone in my life to help me, to guide me, to give me direction and show me the way.
‘Agents have taken advantage of me and I’ve had some terrible moves because agents were chasing money, not looking after me.
‘I’m just trying to play football to support my family but I’m not sure how much longer I can take it.
‘I really want to play in England again and this is keeping me going. I miss it so much and would do anything to play there.
‘I think I am still playing now because of what English football taught me. To be tough, to be strong, and to fight. I try to remember this.
‘It is normal to get frustrated but I will keep trying. Still, maybe just two or three years more may be enough for me.’
Silva, who was on the books at Sundowns, is now playing for Al Ittihad in the Egyptian Premier League but feels he should have accomplished more as he looks back at his career.
‘I feel I let myself down somehow but I honestly don’t know what more I could have done,’ he added.
‘I get frustrated because I thought I deserved a chance and if I had got that opportunity, who knows where I could be now?
‘I loved playing for Liverpool but now when I watch Suarez play at Barca, Sterling at City and even Conor Coady at Wolves, I sometimes feel like I just want to give it all up.
‘When people are texting me saying ‘That could have been you’, it makes me want to leave football. It makes me feel so down, so sad. I always have this in my mind.’
Silva insists that he is looking forward to representing Guinea-Bissau at the Africa Cup of Nations after helping his side qualify for their second consecutive tournament.
The 25-year-old is currently preparing for Guinea-Bissau’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations opener against 2017 champions Cameroon on Tuesday.
‘It is a great feeling for a very small country like Guinea-Bissau – a country of one-and-a-half million people – to qualify for Afcon two times in a row.’
‘Football means a lot to the people and when we play in Guinea-Bissau, the stadium is full seven hours before the game; the fans are waiting for us. I don’t think you’d see this anywhere else in the world.
‘Last time, we really went just to experience the feeling of playing at Afcon. This time, we have the ambition to get through the group stage.
‘This is our target and from there, we will see what happens,’ Silva concluded.
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