South African football’s most expensive flop has left the building

03 January 2018 - 16:03 By Mark Gleeson
Ejike Uzoenyi of Mamelodi Sundowns during the Absa Premiership match between Bloemfontein Celtic and Mamelodi Sundowns at Free State Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Bloemfontein.
Ejike Uzoenyi of Mamelodi Sundowns during the Absa Premiership match between Bloemfontein Celtic and Mamelodi Sundowns at Free State Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Bloemfontein.
Image: Charle Lombard/Gallo Images

Nigerian international Ejike Uzoenyi has left Ajax Cape Town to end almost four years of being the most expensive flop in the South African game.

Ejike departs the Premier Soccer League having made just five starts in four seasons despite arriving in the country for the biggest transfer fee paid by a South African club and pocketing the largest salary any one in the PSL has ever earned.

The 25-year-old winger bounced into local consciousness at the African Nations Championships in Cape Town in early 2014 where he made such a strong impression.

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane chased after him with much determination.

Sundowns paid just over USS1-milion (over R12-million) to Enugu Rangers for the player‚ who has already had a loan spell in France’s Ligue 1 as a teenager and who looked to be a marquee signing for the PSL.

He arrived at Sundowns fresh from participating at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil with the Super Eagles.

His gross salary was R12-million per year‚ working out at take-home-pay of almost R670 000 monthly -- the most any player has ever earned in the country.

It was a coup for his agent Mohamed Lawal with Sundowns hoping they might be able to recoup their investment in future years with a big money transfer to Europe.

But it all ended as a massive act of folly.

Ejike debuted for Sundowns against Bidvest Wits in October 2014‚ after delays in securing a work permit‚ but that was one of only two starts he made for the Brazilians as he failed to impress.

So much so that the next season (2015/16) Sundowns failed to register him as they had too many foreigners‚ but kept paying him his enormous salary as he sat around doing nothing.

The same happened again for the third year of his contract but after six months Ejike negotiated a lucrative settlement and took his clearance.

He joined Wits at the start of last year but despite impressing in trails and being described by Gavin Hunt as sensational in training‚ he only made two starts with two more substitute appearances.

Wits paid him just a fraction of what he had earned at Sundowns‚ offering the chance for a better contract if he impressed and delivered.

But at the end of their last‚ championship-winning season‚ Wits did not take up an option to extend his contract and Ejike joined Ajax instead.

Bu he is now back in the wilderness again after just six months‚ starting just one game for the struggling Cape Town outfit who said Ejike did not show enough determination and seemed to only go through the motions.

Ajax confirmed on Wednesday that he has ‘left the building’.

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