Wheeling and Dealing
Johannesburg – The European football transfer market is in full swing, with millions of dollars changing hands but why are Southern African footballers being left out of the huge cake?
FIFA revealed last week that the money spent on football transfers rose sharply in the past six months, representing an increase of 39 percent in financial value, from the income generated in 5 204 transfers done across the globe.
That put the entire value of the trade, which does not monitor the transfers done in-house when a player moves from one club to another but still remains in the same country, at US$928.8 million.
Predictably, Brazil was the biggest source of footballers that moved while England was the biggest buyer of players.
Only last week, English Premiership club, Swansea, broke its transfer record by splashing £12m on highly-rated Ivorian striker, Wilfried Bony, who moves to England from Holland.
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup, said the acquisition of Bony would boost his club and offer the team a new dimension.
“He's a goal-scorer, you can see how strong he is,” Laudrup told BBC Sport.
“He's good in the air. That's given us something extra as well to see if we can score some set-pieces as well.”
But as the world transfer market shakes, Southern Africa appears to be living in a world of its own, far away from where the real things are happening, and divorced from the wheeling and dealing that goes on.
Some seasoned observers say that there had been a dearth of fresh and exciting football talent, in this part of the world, and it’s not a coincidence that those who look for such talent have decided to shift their attention elsewhere.
Twenty-three years ago, Southern Africa gave England its first star, picked straight from Africa, when Peter Ndlovu arrived at Coventry City and turned on such a show that he started being compared with the legendary George Best.
Ndlovu was just 17 when he arrived at Highfield Road and opened doors for scores of others, including some from Southern Africa, who would have a dance with English football in future with Lucas Radebe spending 10 years at Leeds United and captaining the team in a European Cup semi-final tie.
But the direct movement of fresh and exciting talent from Southern Africa to the major leagues of Europe has been choked along the way, and those that have made it in recent years have failed to make an impact.
Zimbabwe’s Knowledge Musona was highly rated when he was signed, on a five-year contract by Bundesliga side, TSG Hoffeinheim, but failed to make any impact in two years in Germany and is now back in South Africa on loan.
South Africa’s Thulani Serero was young and exciting, having just been crowned the best player in his country two years ago when he left for Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam, who have a tradition of nurturing emerging talent, but he has hardly made any impact in that league and has lost his place in the Bafana Bafana team.
When there has been interest, for the Southern African players, it looks like the focus is now on the older and experienced players.
Zambian international, Jacob Mulenga, is 29 and there has been considerable interest in the FC Utrecht striker from English clubs, including Premiership team Hull City.
Mulenga scored 14 times in the Dutch top division last year, where Serero struggled to make an impact in a season weighed down by injuries, and now there is interest in England and Spain for his services.
Nottingham Forest, the former European champions, were the first to make the move but have been joined by a host of other clubs, including Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic.
“There is a lot of interest in Jacob,” Mulenga's agent, Willie McKay, told reporters. “Jacob and I are speaking to a number of clubs about a move. Jacob's dream is to play in England and we hope to make a decision soon.”
Spanish club, Real Sociedad, are also believed to be interested in the Zambian forward although, as his agent clearly says, his first option is a move to England.
Another 29-year-old Southern African forward, Katlego Mphela, whose career has gone off the rails after the dizzy heights scaled at the 2010 World Cup, is also reported to be on the radar of Hull City.
Hull City manager, Steve Bruce, though, says he isn’t in a rush for a forward and that could hamper Mphela’s prospects given that, at 29, it’s likely that he won’t get another chance for a dance with the English Premiership stars if he fails to get a deal done during this transfer window.
“Listen, I could go and get 10 strikers tomorrow if I wanted but they've got to meet a certain criteria for what we're looking for,” Bruce told the English media.
“There's no point in us rushing out and buying someone for the sake of it, we've got to be patient.
“There's almost six weeks before the season kicks off and we're willing to wait until the right deal for the right player becomes available.
“You're bound to get linked with plenty of players but only now are clubs really getting down to business.
“We've got irons in the fire. We obviously wanted Charlie Austin to be our player but we dust ourselves down and move on.”
Zimbabwean forward, Nyasha Mushekwi, (26) could move but to the less fashionable top league of Belgium where he is likely to join a newly-promoted team.
Mushekwi spent a week at KV Oostende and scored in three of his trial matches.
The Zimbabwe international scored against Eendracht Aalst, the team that Moses Chunga used to play for, against FC Brussels and against VV Roeselare.
But even if Mushekwi goes to the Belgian club, it's unlikely to be a big deal like joining a Bundesliga, La Liga or English Premiership side, which means there is likelihood that the transfer fee might not be that huge.