What does Bafana Bafana star midfielder Andile Jali’s high-profile move to Mamelodi Sundowns entail? MARSHALL GOUTS deliberates.
The local football fraternity was left in a frenzy when Mamelodi Sundowns unveiled the signing of Bafana Bafana midfielder Jali, but what exactly does this move mean for the parties involved?
Masandawana have made yet another signal of intent in their bid to maintain their local dominance with the acquisition of the former KV Oostende man. The signing also serves as a sign of intent to add another Caf Champions League star to their crest.
The eight-time PSL champions ‘beat off competition’ from Kaizer Chiefs and indeed the player’s former team Orlando Pirates to secure the diminutive midfielder’s services on a five-year deal.
Chiefs fans have been left befuddled, while large sectors of Pirates supporters have branded Jali a ‘Judas’ after being under the impression that a return to Mayfair was imminent.
In attempting to explain his move to Sundowns, Jali’s agent, Mike Makaab, dispelled any myths that the player was swayed by Masandawana’s millions, claiming that Chiefs offered a similar contract, while revealing that former club Pirates did not, in fact, make a formal offer for his services.
Not true, both offers were financially very similar David and you can quote me on that.
— Mike Makaab (@MikeMakaab) June 8, 2018
I did not receive an official offer. I am not saying anyone is lying. I am stating facts.
— Mike Makaab (@MikeMakaab) June 8, 2018
Once the news of Jali’s return to South Africa to a star-studded Sundowns outfit had settled, the next inquest was: Where exactly would he fit in?
Well done Andile Jali ,you can now join Lebese , Brockie , Manyisa ect on the bench .
— Mahle (@MahleS21) June 8, 2018
Considering Sundowns’ history of big-name signings who have failed to make the desired impact, it’s a question worth asking.
Just last season, Pitso Mosimane strengthened his squad by bringing in Jeremy Brockie and George Lebese from rival clubs, but much like many of their predecessors, these two stars failed to make an immediate impact and their playing time suffered as a result.
Looking at Jali’s career, it’s plain to see he is by no means your ordinary footballer, especially in South Africa.
As a budding young footballer, he never had the opportunity to be developed at a professional academy.
Instead, the Matatiele-born midfielder was handed his chance after being scouted in the Coca-Cola Stars Series by former Bafana Bafana Afcon 1996-winning coach Clive Barker while playing for Magaza High.
Jali would go on to take full advantage of the opportunity to ply his trade at the highest level, forming an integral part of the historic AmaTuks team that reached the final of the 2009 Nedbank Cup final, paving his move to Pirates, where he helped guide the team to the infamous ‘Double Treble’, before leaving South African shores to spend four years in Belgium.
Andile Jali Betrayed the Ghosts thou 😭😭😭😭😭 we loved that midget when he couldnt even say Molweni in English, we stood by him when he had a heart problem leyanja leya..ungrateful bustard
— PABLO 👑 (@Wonderb32) June 8, 2018
The examples of players making seamless transitions from years abroad to the PSL – a move often viewed as a backward step in one’s career – are few. Jali is the next case study worth watching.
The majority of football fans are unhappy with Jali’s move to Sundowns, citing a quote he made in 2014 as proof of the Bafana midfielder not sticking to his word.
‘I will only come back for Pirates,’ he boldly proclaimed four years ago.
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 and it’s that exact fearlessness which will stand him in good stead if he is to prove a success at Sundowns.
It’s not outlandish to suggest that it will take a special player to dethrone the established combination of Hlompho Kekana and Tiyani Mabunda at the club, but that’s a task Jali is likely to relish. He simply loves succeeding where others have failed and proving people wrong in the face of adversity.
Good news for Sundowns supporters is that Jali is in a position to fast-track his progress with the club, having fully recovered from a recent knee injury.
Makaab, in explaining his client’s decision, says Jali is ready for the challenge of proving his worth at Sundowns; you know, the PSL giants who have Kekana, Mabunda, Oupa Manyisa, Lucky Mohomi, Bangaly Soumahoro and Gaston Sirino on their books.
‘He felt that maybe his playing style will be more suited for Sundowns. He took a long time to make the decision. Both teams had similar offers. You could have tossed the coin and it could have gone either way,’ he added.
Makaab is also confident that adding the Bafana Bafana regular won’t destabilise the Sundowns dressing room.
‘Jali is in his prime of his career. That’s why he signed a five-year deal. He is committed to Sundowns. There’s no concern maybe he might fail.
‘He had four years of success in Belgium and is ready to prove himself.
‘He is matured. He is more professional. Pitso sat down with him and explained what is expected of him. He is an experienced coach,’ he concluded.
Whether it be as a long-term replacement for the influential Kekana or the need for an experienced player with a ‘never say die’ attitude to grab the game by the scruff of the neck when the chips are down, Sundowns have certainly got their man.
Where to next for Jali and Sundowns? I’d suggest, the sky is the limit.
Photo: Sundowns Official Twitter Page
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