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Soccer

Pitso layouts his master plan

The hunt for a new striker with a nose for goal is a top priority

10 December 2017 - 00:00 By BARENG-BATHO KORTJAAS

Many thoughts raced through Pitso Mosimane's mind in a week marking a five-year milestone at Sundowns,
Making his protege Percy Tau the Premier Soccer League's footballer of the season tops the to-do list of the top of the table coach.
Fast-tracking the arrival of a new prolific striker is a pressing priority for Mosimane.
So is breathing new life into a Sundowns squad that squeezed six major trophies in five years. Producing players who've ridden the road to individual accolades is Mosimane's forte. Forward Khama Billiat swept the boards at the PSL awards before finishing runner-up - behind teammate goalkeeper Denis Onyango - in the Caf African footballer of the year (based in Africa) prize.On his day, Tau stirs the spirit of Sundowns. He is Mosimane's instrument of intervention, a dynamic player who explodes with devastating effect. "We have a plan for Percy. I have transferred all my energies from Khama to Percy. It is important for Percy to become a candidate for the best player in the PSL this campaign.
"Next season, Percy needs to be in Africa's top three. To get to that level, Percy has to be on the pitch every day and be influential, be in the starting line-up of Bafana qualifiers and Champions League matches. He hasn't done enough with Bafana Bafana."
ARE YOU HAZARD OR MESSI?
Tau must choose whether he wants to be at the level of Eden Hazard or Lionel Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo. "I tell him 'look at Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo, you have the talent as they do.'
"We're fighting with his decisions on finishing. He wants to pass other people when he needs to be ruthless," said Mosimane. "He reminds me of Hazard, who is good, but doesn't score as many goals as he can. If Percy can take 50% of the chances, he would be more amazing. But it is work in progress."
Mosimane went shopping for someone with a nose for goal. His lips are sealed on the striker's identity."He is a special player." From Africa? "No." From Europe? "No." From South America? "Yes." Why? "The world is led by South America. When Man City, Real Madrid, Barca want to revive teams, they buy South American. Same as Bayern [Munich]. Liverpool have [Roberto] Firmino and [Philippe] Coutinho."
After trying and failing to prise Jeremy Brockie from crosstown rivals SuperSport United, Mosimane took two Sundowns scouts to Bolivia recently. Six days later their minds were made up
"He has a high quality of technique, speed and scores goals. We are fighting to bring him in the January transfer window."
Mosimane's appetite for success is insatiable. Sundowns overindulged in the last five years with a huge half-a-dozen helpings of Caf Super Cup, Caf Champions League, two league titles, Nedbank and Telkom Knockout trophies.
PROVOKING OUTRAGE
Complacency usually creeps in after such a purple patch. For a coach to extend the period of ecstasy, reviving the team is required.
The rearguard is getting long in the tooth. Thabo Nthethe, Wayne Arendse, Anele Ngcongca and Tebogo Langerman are on the wrong side of 30.
"You can't ruffle feathers because you have experience in those you've mentioned. Centrebacks are like goalkeepers. They last longer with age. But we can't be caught napping as if we were not aware that we have timeframes not favouring us in that position. The future is on [Motjeka] Madisha, Rivaldo [Coetzee] and [U-20 international] Thendo Mukumela.
"The trio are 22, 21 and 19 respectively. Madisha swam with the sharks when we threw him in the deep end. Rivaldo did that at Ajax as well. Both are Bafana internationals now. Thendo is playing at MDC where Madisha was before we loaned him to Highlands Park. The future is bright."
He will continue to provoke outrage nonchalantly. Tirades will never stop tumbling out of his tongue explosively. There's no two ways with Mosimane, you either like him or you don't. There is a deep sense of genuine regret tinged with maturity when he talks about the growing pains of his coaching journey."When you're 35 you're volatile, hot-headed, coming with an 'I'm competing in this thing and I have something to offer attitude,'" he responds when I remind him of the bust-up he had with Angel Cappa, an erstwhile Sundowns coach he punched during a Pretoria derby match while Mosimane was at SuperSport.
Even more so when he reflects on the final hours of his 22-month tenure with Bafana. which ended unceremoniously. "My other regret is trying to justify the number of seven draws and not accepting that the draws were not good enough.
"You cannot want not to be criticised on the draws. Especially because we were coming from the disaster of misunderstanding the rules in Mbombela. Things were just going down. That was the hardest moment of my coaching career ... . I was stubborn."
The body count of coaches who have fallen victim of Sundowns' president Patrice Motsepe rivals that of a mafia boss. Mamelodi Sundowns. Five years. Same coach. Mystery? Nah. History. Motsepe wants him to be his Alex Ferguson. And now for the next chapter.
bbk@sundaytimes.co.za..

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