Pirates are going back to future
Irvin Khoza, having signed two players past their best but presently still full value to Orlando Pirates, yesterday took a bold leap into the future.
The Iron Duke announced what everyone already knew: Wits' shining star, and captain, Sifiso Myeni, will be boarding the Pirates ship at the age of 23; and Khoza had another ace up his sleeve.
Thandani Ntshumayelo, 21, has also joined Pirates in a swap deal with Supersport United. Sameehg Doutie will go the other way.
With Luis Boa Morte and Benni McCarthy already on the books as Pirates' high-profile signings this season, Khoza emphasised that signing the two young players was part of the quest for a "generational mix" at the club.
Boa Morte and McCarthy, former West Ham United team-mates, are both 34 and likely to end their careers with the Buccaneers.
Ntshumayelo and Myeni are just beginning theirs.
"We knew our squad was strong, but some players are getting older. These signings will help with that generational mix at the club, but they will still contribute to maintaining the strength of the team. They [will] be tested at the club," Khoza said of the precocious pair.
"The more experienced players will play more games in the [African] Champions League and some will help to strengthen the team in the premiership."
The Iron Duke has made it clear to the Pirates technical team and players that, while the Champions League is undoubtedly important, he does not want them to ignore Pirates' defence of the Absa Premiership.
He said this was why the club had bought as many as five players - Boa Morte, Myeni, Ntshumayelo, Thabo Matlaba (Free State Stars) and Njabulo Manqana (Golden Arrows).
Khoza said that he was still searching for another Jomo Sono, who left Pirates in 1977, after a glittering career, to join New York Cosmos in the United States.
The chairman has since retired Sono's No10 jersey at the club and no player has yet inspired him to reinstate it. But he believes such a player will turn up among the future stars at the club, as Pirates continue to blood youth and blend it with experience.
"Jomo Sono never got injured during his career at Orlando Pirates, and we want such a player again," said Khoza.
"We can never have too many players and we will never close our doors to quality players."
While Pirates were the most active club in the transfer market in January, rivals Kaizer Chiefs ended speculation about star player Siphiwe Tshabalala.
The Bafana midfielder, who had been eyeing a move to Europe in January, yesterday signed a three-year contract extension with the Amakhosi.
"He has always been loyal to the club and his experience will undoubtedly be vital at this stage of the season," Chiefs football manager Bobby Motaung said.
"We are delighted he has chosen to renew his contract after being given time by the chairman [Kaizer Motaung] to ponder his future."
Tshabalala went on a 10-day trial with English Championship side Crystal Palace at the start of the year, but the club did not have the budget to sign him.
They are expected to make an offer at the end of the season.