Simba Mushati – KweseESPN
REWIND to a few months back and Khama Billiat’s exit from South Africa’s Absa Premiership seemed all but certain.
Yet, as his contract finally expires at the end of this month, not everyone is so sure anymore. And it is telling that Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane is still holding out some hope, however faint, of convincing the Zimbabwe international to renew his contract with the Brazilians.
Furthermore, Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and even SuperSport United are reportedly fancying their chances of landing the forward, who is now in the prime of his career.
So will the vexing question of why a player of Billiat’s talent and brilliance just can’t break into European football spill into yet another season?
Mosimane, for his part, recently hinted that the divorce between club and player is not yet as cast in stone as some may have already concluded.
“I will try my best to sign him. If I don’t sign Billiat, it is because he got a better offer somewhere else,” Mosimane said recently. “We can’t let [him] go, he has been an important guy for us.”
Mosimane’s efforts to keep Billiat possibly stem from some awareness that there are no concrete offers on the table from Europe just yet.
The coach’s statement also inadvertently touches on one of the reasons why Billiat has remained stranded in South Africa over the years, with his bursts of superb form frequently interrupted by lengthy spells on the treatment table.
It was this week reported that Sundowns were ready to tempt Billiat with a R5-million a year offer, a huge figure which could easily surpass what the player might get in lesser European Leagues.
There was real hope that as his current contract runs out, foreign clubs would at least show real interest in securing the Zimbabwean’s services.
The player himself is not revealing much for now, telling the local media this week that he was in no rush to commit.
“Honestly, I don’t know yet. I am still to sit down with my manager,” Billiat said. “I have got a couple of offers and we will see what’s best for Khama Billiat and where the future is going to be. I have time on my hands and I don’t have any pressure.”
Billiat’s manager Mike Ngobeni echoed more or less the same sentiments in an interview with the SoccerLaduma, insisting that they would not be “rushing anything.”
“We are not rushing any deal because we have got time to make up our minds. We have to make a bold decision and not an emotional decision you know, there is nothing to be emotional about, we need to make sure that we make a bold decision for Khama and his family and his future.”
Reading between the lines though, it would appear Billiat and his team are yet to come across the kind of deal that would arouse their interest.
Billiat’s first priority, to restate the obvious, is Europe. So far, however, the only team mentioned as remotely interested from that part of the world are Djurgardens of Sweden.
Besides, Billiat barely fits the profile of Djurgardens’ African recruits, with Tino Kadewere (22), Senegalese striker Aliou Badji (20) and Zambia midfielder Edward Chilufya (18) all youngsters with a high sell-on value. By contrast, Billiat turns 28 in August.
The other club outside of Africa whose name has been mentioned are Azerbaijan side Qarabang, who were something of a punching bag in this past season’s UEFA Champions League.
Under such circumstances, it is understandable that Billiat and his team are not rushing to put pen to paper. That is not to say though, that more credible offers from Europe will not surface..
Billiat’s output since moving to Ajax Cape Town back in 2010 has been nothing short of staggering, the persistent injuries notwithstanding. He has scored 60 goals in 182 Absa Premiership appearances, with another 60 created.
Just this past season, for instance, he was out for around three months with knee troubles. However, his quality still shone through as he netted nine goals while laying on eight more from 21 appearances in all competitions.
Those who have watched Billiat over the years will agree that the winger would be a perfect fit for team in leagues such as Belgium, Netherlands, Turkey, Sweden, Russia or even France.
His recent change of management probably stemmed from frustration at the lack of progress on a move abroad. The onus is now on new man Ngobeni to prove he can make a difference.