What went wrong for Musona?
Harare – In September 2011, FIFA unveiled a list of XI emerging African football stars it tipped to take the world by storm and it featured Zimbabwe’s talisman, Knowledge Musona, and highly-rated South African forward Thulani Serero.
Others tipped by FIFA included Moussa Sow of Senegal, James Obi of Nigera, Moussa Maazou of Niger, Yousef Al Arabi of Morocco, Cheikh Diabate of Mali, Jordan Ayew of Ghana, Wilfried Bony of Cote d’Ivoire, Congolese star Delvin Ndinga and Botswana international Mogogi Gabonamong.
In that summer of 2011, everything was going right for Serero who had just won the Footballer of the Year award in South Africa, the previous season, and had moved to Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam on a two-year deal.
FIFA described Serero as a player who was “diminutive but tricky, providing a hint of unpredictable genius.”
Musona, too, appeared on the right track to greatness and had just won the Golden Boot award in the South African Premiership, in the previous season, with 15 goals in 28 league games, including some stunning ones that provided the lasting images of the 2010/2011 Super Diski campaign.
A move to Europe was inevitable and the Zimbabwean ace soon sealed a five-year deal to join German club TSG Hoffenheim.
But, two years down the line, Musona is back in South Africa, having done virtually nothing to make his presence felt during two seasons in the Bundesliga, and while Serero remains at Ajax Amsterdam, he has struggled to make any meaningful impact.
Musona last week returned to Kaizer Chiefs, the club that he left for the greener pastures of the Bundesliga amid a wave of great expectations, on a season’s loan that might be extended if the two clubs reach an agreement.
“I am happy to be back. And looking forward to the season and working with the players and the technical team,” the Zimbabwe international told the official Kaizer Chiefs website last week on the day his return was confirmed.
“Any jersey number will do for me, as I don’t play a number, l play football.
“I always checked Chiefs results on line. And was happy to see that PSL has become tough, there is no longer a small team and was also happy to see the league getting stronger.”
Chiefs’ football manager, Bobby Motaung, said their decision to bring Musona back was a huge statement that they want to keep the standards that saw them win the League and cup double last season.
Next year, the Amakhosi will be playing in the CAF Champions League after a lengthy absence from taking part in football competitions on the continent.
“Bringing back Musona signals our intentions as we prepare for what promises to be a competitive season following the League and Cup double achievements of the 2012- 2013 season,” Motaung told his club’s official website.
“We brought Musona on one-season loan with an option to buy. When we sold him, we agreed with Hoffenheim that Kaizer Chiefs will be his home in case Musona returns to South Africa.
“This is a clear statement we mean business and we always do our best to bring the best talent to Kaizer Chiefs.”
For Chiefs’ fans, the return of the “Smiling Assassin” and the expected impact that his presence on the pitch is likely to generate, no doubt cheers their spirits.
But for millions of Zimbabwean football fans, who see Musona as their ultimate football idol, the striker’s return to Super Diski is a huge disappointment, especially at an age when they expected him to be making huge waves in Europe.
Admittedly, Musona never settled in Germany, making just 16 appearances in his first season for Hoffenheim but scoring no goal in the league.
Changes in the coaching team at Hoffenheim, and being played way out of position as a winger when he loves the freedom of operating in acres of space just behind the frontline forward, certainly did not help his game.
But even after he had been loaned to Augsburg, to try and get more game time and adjust to the demands of the Bundesliga, Musona did not make the expected impact and did not score in his 14 appearances for the club.
In two years in the Germany football league, the Zimbabwe international had only one Cup goal to his credit and, for a man who caught the eye with his goal-scoring qualities playing for Kaizer Chiefs, this was a terrible return on the investment.
So what message can we pick from what has happened to Musona and the struggles that Serero continues to ensure to Ajax Amsterdam?
Does this send the signal that the South African Premiership isn’t as competitive as we think because if its big stars can destroy the opposition there and win all the individual awards of excellence, why is it that they are not transferring their impact to European leagues?
Why would Musona score 15 goals, in just 28 league games, for Chiefs in one season and suddenly fail to score in 16 league games, spread over two seasons, for both Hoffenheim and Augsburg in the Bundesliga?
“I think it’s a huge leap from the South African Premiership to the Bundesliga, which when you look to what happens in the Champions League last season, has become the strongest league in European football,” Zimbabwean football agent, George Deda, told The Southern Times.
“The Bundesliga is a tough league and I don’t think Hoffenheim expected Musona to make an immediate impact and that explains why they gave him a five-year contract, he was a player they wanted to develop into this star that they believed he would become with time.
“I’m not sure what they have in their plans right now and I fully understand the concerns of those Zimbabweans who will see this as a step in the wrong direction because they expected so many great things from their best player when he got his breakthrough to Europe.
“Football is a funny game and I still believe Musona is a very good player and he can rise again and get a European club calling for his signature but if I had a way I would have liked him to go to France, Spain or England because I just get the feeling German football doesn’t suit his type.
“In England, his pace will be ideal and he will not feel lonely because he knows the language and there are a lot of Zimbabweans around for company and the food is familiar and, if I was involved in the negotiations, I believe England would be good for him.”
But what message does all this give about Super Diski?
“I understand when people say some will say Super Diski is not a strong league because its stars are struggling when they go elsewhere but I beg to differ because Serero has just had his contract extended until 2015, which means that Ajax Amsterdam still see something special, or something fort the future, in him,” said Deda.
“With all due respect, Hoffenheim have not cancelled Musona’s contract and that is a huge message because it tells us that they are still willing to bank on him and they believe that if he comes closer to home, for a year, he might recharge his batteries and could be a far better player when he returns to Germany next year.
“When a club has made a decision that it doesn’t believe in a player anymore, it nullifies that contract and Hoffenheim haven’t done that, which still keeps the window open for Musona to go back and make an impact.
“To answer your question, directly, I think Super Diski is competitive but certainly not at the same level as the Bundesliga and not even the English Premiership or La Liga, right now, are at the same level as the Bundesliga.”