Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
HE might have adopted the Cristiano Ronaldo way of celebrating his goals, but red-hot Zimbabwe international forward Khama Billiat, appears more like a cloned version of Lionel Messi.
And, as he takes his game to new heights, his magic is now charming a number of European suitors.
The 25-year-old forward’s stunning form, which has seen him score FIVE GOALS IN HIS LAST SIX MATCHES for Mamelodi Sundowns, has attracted the interests of two French clubs, AS Monaco and Lille, amid reports that bigger European clubs are now joining the queue to sign the Zimbabwean forward.
Billiat’s explosion into the best player in the South African Premiership, and the heartbeat of a deadly strike force that is ripping defences apart in Supa Diski, has now led his Sundowns’ coach Pitso Mosimane to suggest that he is now part of African football’s version of Barcelona’s All-Star attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
The Warriors’ star turned on yet another man-of-the-match performance on Wednesday night, as he scored for the FIFTH TIME IN HIS LAST SIX GAMES, while also providing an assist for the crucial first goal for his strike partner Leonardo Castro as Sundowns beat Orlando Pirates 2-1 to open a healthy cushion in the race for the South African Premiership title.
Keegan Dolly, the rising South African youth international, is part of that devastating attacking trio known as CBD (Castro, Billiat, Dolly), which Mosimane says is the continent’s football’s version of Barcelona’s irresistible trio dubbed MSN (Messi, Suarez, Neymar), the deadliest strike partnership in the game.
“We mix things up in attack,” Mosimane, who takes his Brazilians to Bulawayo for a CAF Champions League preliminary round showdown against Chicken Inn at Barbourfields tomorrow, told South African journalists.
“We tell Khama, Leo and Dolly to think like Messi, Neymar and Suarez. It’s about the brotherhood of the three . . . to share the goals.”
And former Zimbabwe international, Wilfred Mugeyi, believes Billiat would have already been playing in Europe — and showcasing his skills on a bigger stage — had it not been for the injuries that have derailed his development into the superstar that his fans believe he can become.
“He wants to play in Europe and injuries have affected his progress,” Mugeyi told Goal.com. “For him to play in Europe he has to perform for Sundowns, I hope he stays injury free.
“He is on top of his game at the moment. He is creating and scoring goals.
“He has improved a lot; he is my favourite horse at the moment. He is one of the players that make Sundowns tick and he is enjoying his game.
“He is starting to show the Khama we all knew and who made Sundowns pay big money for (him).”
And the football experts at Goal.com believe that the are seeing something special as Billiat continues to improve, scoring crucial goals for his team, and creating others for his fellow teammates, including a sumptuous reverse pass that freed Castro on Wednesday into acres of space, ripping apart the heart of the Pirates’ defence, for the Colombian to score the opening goal.
Then, he was on hand to score the second, executing his effort brilliantly from a rebound, with the ball kissing the left upright post before it rolled home for what proved to be the winning goal.
“Billiat has no doubt returned to his dazzling best after that horrific head injury in the first half of the season,” Goal.com noted.
“Billiat has flourished under Pitso Mosimane and no more so than in recent matches where he has been one of the club’s regular source of goals.
The Zimbabwean star doesn’t only score goals for his team, but he also creates goal-scoring chances for teammates and our Goal readers agreed that Billiat deserves this week’s honour (Player of the Week).
“Over 50 per cent of the readers voted for the Sundowns attacker in our poll, while the majority of our social media followers also gave him the thumbs up.”
Last year Billiat told Kick-Off magazine that it was his mission to turn himself into a forward like Ronaldo and Messi because he wanted to ensure that he scores “in every match.”
“I want to be like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who score in every match. It is no use if i score a goal and we draw. I want to score goals and make a difference, but the most important thing for me is to be a player who will score goal for the benefit of the team.
“That will demand a lot of hard work, but I am ready and I feel we are all ready.”
Billiat’s confidence has soared in recent months, as he accepts the leadership role that he has to play for both club and country, and he has not only been outstanding for Sundowns but also for the Warriors and is expected to play a very big role as the senior national team battles for a place at the 2017 Nations Cup finals.
His low centre of gravity, which enables him to twist and turn while at full pace, have made him a terror to defences while his dribbling skills have embarrassed defenders although he still needs to do better, in terms of his finishing, given that he blows a number of good chances that he gets.
It’s an area that Mosimane is working on.
And Billiat is lucky that he also plays for a team where Peter Ndlovu, who set a benchmark for local forwards playing wide on the wings as he made a big impression in the English Premiership, and also led the Warriors to their maiden appearance at the Nations Cup finals, is one of the technical crew.
The Sundowns’ fans believe that their star has already come of age and the love affair between the football star, and his supporters, is blooming and the club’s official Twitter account has been flooded with messages of love.
“KB (Khama Billiat) is the Player of The Season this year and he deserves it.”
“He deserves it (man-of-the-match against Orlando Pirates). To me he is man-of-the-match every time Downs play. Good player, indeed.”
“Well done boy, you deserve it, congratulations and keep on working hard. Am so happy for you Khama, you are the best, keep it up and keep it simple.”
“Truly speaking, he deserves it. He is a good lad, hardworking too. He has got everything in him.”