Sundowns fail in willing buyer, seller market
Rich Premiership kids hit a brick wall on three key pursuits
Mamelodi Sundowns are like the new, rich, let's be polite and say plus-sized kid who arrives at a school buying all the other children's sweets.
At first, the other kids are delighted at the opportunity to make a quick buck. But slowly they wise up, and decide they want to keep their best chocolates. Besides, the rich kid has got enough. He can still buy a few liquorice allsorts.
Sundowns' struggles to get the players they wanted was a feature of the 2017/18 first transfer window, which closed eventfully at the Premier Soccer League offices in Parktown at midnight on Thursday. Others were a high percentage of free transfers, and the competitiveness between all the teams.Sundowns aggressively pursued strikers Lebogang Manyama - sold on the last day to Konyaspor in the Turkish Süper Lig,Aubrey Ngoma from Cape Town City and Jeremy Brockie from SuperSport United, but met a brick wall.
In a league where several teams consider themselves serious title challengers, why strengthen the favourites?
Sundowns' astute communications coordinator Thulani Thuswa, who arrived at the Premier Soccer League offices at 11.45pm on Thursday as the Brazilians chased Ngoma to the end, was asked if he believed the resistance to sell to his club had been coordinated. He responded neatly.
"I wouldn't take it that far. I think I can say that people are strategic in who they sell to. You don't just sell to your neighbour. You don't just sell to your opposition.
"And you don't sell to strengthen the opposition. So, let's thank the teams who have given us players - Kaizer Chiefs with George Lebese, Orlando Pirates with Oupa Manyisa.
"But, you know, it's a willing buyer, willing seller market. If you want to sell to me, you sell to me. If you don't, you don't."
Sundowns did not do badly in the transfer window. Rivaldo Coetzee, Bafana Bafana's 20-year-old kid from Kakamas in the Northern Cape who had reached a ceiling at Ajax Cape Town, was swapped on the final day with defender Mario Booysen on a three-year deal, plus two to renew.
If anyone can see the development the young centreback needs, it is Sundowns' coach Pitso "Jingles" Mosimane.It was notable how, even in a market where money was tight and free transfers the norm, clubs headhunted their signings far more astutely.
Six or seven years ago Maritzburg United, perhaps not advised well by their coaches, would sign just about anybody.
This preseason, under an astute young head coach in Fadlu Davids, they raised Sundowns' ire, beating the Pretoria giants to two targets - Ghana goalkeeper Richard Ofori and then AS Vita Club's highly rated Cameroonian playmaker Yazid Atouba.
The fat kid analogy for Downs only goes so far. Yes they are rich, and their off-field management bloated. On the field, they are the sleek machine who won last year's Caf Champions League.
But Downs' heroics flying the flag have earned them no favours from their rivals. Of course not. This is football and people want to win.