Stay or go? Big name Kaizer Chiefs stars who face an uncertain future

01 March 2023 - 14:03 By Marc Strydom
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Kaizer Chiefs veteran Itumeleng Khune's contract is up for negotiation.
Kaizer Chiefs veteran Itumeleng Khune's contract is up for negotiation.
Image: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Kaizer Chiefs have a number of big name players whose contracts end in June and who will have started the negotiating process to renew or move on.

Itumeleng Khune, Eric Mathoho and Khama Billiat are marquee players on that list who have had battles for game time.

TimesLIVE examines the cases of five big name stars, all on the wrong side of 30, who have three months left to conclude a new deal, and what their prospects are of remaining at Naturena.

Eric Mathoho, centreback, 33

Astonishingly, Mathoho has played one minute of one league game this season, replacing Edmilson Dove in the 95th minute of Chiefs' 2-1 win against SuperSport United in September. This from a Bafana Bafana international who has been almost ever-present since signing from Bloemfonetin Celtic at the start of the 2012-13 season.

Mathoho's increased lack of confidence at the heart of the defence goes back a few seasons. But such an extreme lack of game time is surprising, especially since he put in a solid showing in the penalties defeat to Orlando Pirates in the Carling Black Label Cup.

Mathoho might need a spate of injuries to get in games and try to impress in the final third of 2022-23 or a change in coaching staff to stand a chance of extending his stay past 11 years at Naturena.

Itumeleng Khune, goalkeeper, 35

Could Itu's 16-year stay at the club he joined at 14 in 2007 finally be over? If there is uncertainty, it would not be the first time the one-time undoubted Bafana No 1 and King of Naturena flirted with leaving.

In 2015, after Chiefs wrapped up a second league and cup double in three seasons under Stuart Baxter, Khune was among a group of stars of that squad with Tefu Mashamaite, George Lebese and Mandla Masango who opted to leave Chiefs when they could not get the new contracts they wanted. The keeper, though, about-turned on his decision and opted to stay where he was comfortable.

The seven years since have seen the veteran increasingly injury-plagued and inconsistent. In the first half of this season he made yet another seeming return to form that, like a few before it, did not last long and he has played nine league games in all.

There has been talk of an offer to join Chiefs' coaching structure. Khune might opt against a smaller package playing elsewhere and the comfort of that kind of option. A renewed playing contract seems a 50/50 prospect.

Sifiso Hlanti, left-back, 32

Hlanti is also getting on in years, but, signed at an advanced age in July 2021 with Chiefs knowing he had continued ability, he seems the most likely, and almost a certainty even, of the five players to renew.

The man who famously put Liverpool star Mohamed Salah in his pocket at Cairo International Stadium when Bafana shocked Egypt 1-0 in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations second round has been a rare model of consistent forcefulness for inconsistent Chiefs in his 15 league appearances, all starts. He seems worth at least another two-year deal.

Phathutshedzo Nange, central midfield, 31

Having started brightly when he was signed from Stellenbosch FC at the start of 2021-22 — a season where he played 24 times in the league under Baxter — Nange has battled injuries in 2022-23 and looked low on confidence in his four league and cup appearances.

Chiefs coach Arthur Zwane has expressed his admiration for the midfielder's qualities, but such a dire lack of game time in a season where he has to negotiate a lengthier stay might be too much to overcome for the player.

Khama Billiat, forward, 32

The Zimbabwean ace's decline since he ruled the Premiership and was the attacking fulcrum in Pitso Moismane's Mamelodi Sundowns trophy machine that won the 2016 Caf Champions League has been marked.

Chiefs signed a player in July 2018 who at 27 should have been at the peak of his powers. But the 2015-16 PSL Footballer of the Season had already begun to show signs of decline, Mosimane battling to hide increasing frustration, by the time Downs sold him.

Five years later, Chiefs supporters, while remaining admirers of Billiat's undoubted ability, are asking what he's brought to Naturena. He was signed to end a then-three-year trophy drought that seems destined to be extended to eight years by June.

Last season Billiat had one of his best seasons in the gold and black with eight goals in 27 league games. This campaign he's been injured more than played, being fielded in nine Premiership games. A contract renewal seems unlikely.

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