Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
KHAMA Billiat might have overshadowed Keegan Dolly in Super Diski last season, with the Zimbabwean forward making a clean sweep of the individual honours, but the South African midfielder could be the first of the dynamic Mamelodi Sundowns’ duo to make a move to Europe.
Billiat, who turned 26 last Friday, was largely expected to make the grade to Europe during the current transfer window which closes on Wednesday next week.
But the good money now is on his Sundowns’ teammate, Dolly, to make the move to the big stage of European football where all the world’s best players ply their trade.
The Zimbabwe international has been outstanding for Sundowns, in the CAF Champions League, scoring in winning causes for the Brazilians in matches against African football giants ES Setif of Algeria and Egyptian powerhouse Zamalek, and helping the Brazilians qualify for the semi-finals of the tournament.
He was left on the bench yesterday, as Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane rested his star players, for the group game against Enyimba of Nigeria whose second half was played in atrocious conditions after a thunderstorm pounded Port Harcourt, with the South African champions slumping to a 1-3 defeat.
It was Sundowns’ first defeat in the group stages of the Champions League this season but came in a dead rubber after the Pretoria side had already secured their place in the semi-finals having won their previous three games.
There had been a wave of expectations that Billiat will move to Europe, during the current transfer window, with some reports even linking him with a move to France.
However, it appears that it’s his teammate, Dolly, who could make the move to Europe first with Sundowns appearing resigned to losing the South African star either in the current transfer window or in January next year,
The Brazilians have already started to prepare for life without Dolly by recruiting Ivorian play-maker, Yannick Zakri, from ASEC Mimosas.
Egyptian publication KingFut claims that Sundowns will splash $350 000 for the services of Zakri, who plays in the same position as Dolly, with the Ivorian having been expected to arrive in Pretoria either yesterday, or anytime this week, to complete the deal.
The Egyptian publication say that ASEC Mimosas, whose business model thrives on developing and selling their best players, have already accepted Sundowns’ offer.
Egyptian giants, Al Ahly, the record African champions, were also reported to be interested in Zakri but they reportedly offered $200 000 for the player and were beaten in the bidding process by the South African Moneybags.
Dolly is reported to have attracted the interest of a number of European clubs, following impressive showing for South Africa at the Olympics in Brazil where he captained his country, with Greek side Olympiacos said to be ready to splash money on the midfielder.
Mohamed Bouhafsi of RMC Sport believes Dolly could be signed by French side Stade Rennais.
But, with everything pointing to Dolly making the first move to Europe, Billiat’s situation is likely to generate a lot of debate in South Africa, Zimbabwe and in other parts of the continent.
Already, a number of seasoned African journalists have been using the interactive Football Africa Arena, where they interact with the game’s leaders, agents and sponsors, to question why Billiat hasn’t made the grade into Europe.
Some of journalists have been wondering whether Billiat is a victim of poor management given they believe that, by now, his skills should have flown him to a European club.
Others feel that Billiat, who carries a price tag of about R40 million rand, has been priced out of the market with a number of European clubs not keen on paying more than $3 million for a player from Super Diski. Egyptian side, Ahly, were said to be interested in paying R18 million for the forward.
Sundowns repaid Billiat and Dolly for their influence in leading them to the league championship last season by naming them as the vice captains of the club with Hlompo Kekana, who was also outstanding, becoming the new club skipper.
Kekana replaces Ramahlwe Mphahlele who moved to rivals Kaizer Chiefs.
Five years ago, Billiat saw his then Ajax Cape Town teammate, Thulani Serero, win the South African Footballer of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season awards and then move to Europe to join Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam.
Serero has since played in the UEFA Champions League. Billiat’s Warriors teammate, Knowledge Musona, who used Super Diski as a launching pad for a career in Europe where he has since established himself in Belgium, has been urging his national teammate to come and join him in the big leagues where the majority of the best players in the world ply their trade.
Musona and Billiat were key figures as the Warriors ended 10 years of waiting for a place at the Nations Cup finals, securing qualification with a game to spare, after winning three matches, beating Malawi home-and-away, and drawing the other two against Guinea and Swaziland.
The Warriors are currently the only Southern African side to qualify for the 2017 Nations Cup finals, and it’s likely to remain the case after the final round of fixtures next month, after Zambia’s protests that Guinea Bissau had used an ineligible player in their group matches, were dismissed by CAF this week.
Those who want to see Billiat moving to Europe could also be hoping that the Zimbabwean international could use the Nations Cup finals in Gabon, which has a bigger audience in terms of European scouts, to make his case for a move.