WARRIORS star forward Khama Billiat could finally move away from reigning South African and African champions Mamelodi Sundowns amid indications that the Brazilians’ coach Pitso Mosimane has given the biggest hint that the club is bracing for life without him.
According to reports from South Africa yesterday, Billiat — who had been sidelined by a long-term injury that stretched almost four months — could now be on his way out of cash-rich Sundowns.
The reports indicated that talks over a new deal between Billiat’s handlers and Sundowns had stalled. Billiat started for Sundowns for the first time since that long lay off when he featured for them in the MTN8 quarter-final tie against Maritzburg United at Luca Moripe stadium.
He was however, outshone in that MTN encounter by fellow Warriors international Evans Rusike who grabbed the winner in Martizburg’s 1-0 shock triumph over Sundowns. Billiat lasted 80 minutes in that encounter before being substituted. The forward who turns 27 on Saturday, was however, back in the limelight yesterday this time after revelations by his coach Mosimane that he wants out and would want to explore his career elsewhere.
Billiat has been at Sundowns since 2013 when he joined the club from Ajax Cape Town. According to a report in Sunday World, negotiations between Sundowns and Billiat’s representatives have stopped after the two parties failed to agree on terms for a new deal. The two main issues are the player’s salary and a $2.5 million buyout clause that has often come into the way of any possible move to Europe or North Africa.
With the talks having stalled, Sundowns could be forced to cash in on Billiat now or risk losing him for free with his contract now set to enter its final season. Mosimane admitted at the weekend that they needed to prepare themselves in case Billiat did leave.
“We would like to get one up front, one more striker and prepare ourselves, maybe Khama leaves, by the way,” Mosimane was quoted as saying.
It is the revelations by Mosimane that Billiat wants to leave and the apparent resignation by the former Bafana Bafana mentor to losing one of his star players that has fuelled speculation that the Zimbabwean international could finally try for his cherished break into the European leagues. Mosimane said Billiat is refusing to sign a new deal and wants to leave the club.
“If he renews, we love him, he is a good player, but he wants to leave and he doesn’t want to renew,” Mosimane said after Sundowns’ surprising defeat to Maritzburg United.
“What else can we do? It is his life. “We lost Katlego Mphela, we continued and won cups. We’ve lost Elias Pelembe and we won cups.
“We lost Lebogang Mokoena, we won cups. We lost Ramahlwe Mphahlele and we won the Champions League. We lost Bongani Zungu and we won the league. We will lose players, but we will go on.
“But we would love him to stay, we want him to stay and I think he will stay. Sundowns are strong. I will be gone and someone else will win the league. So, life goes on.”
Sundowns are understood to be targeting SuperSport United’s Jeremy Brockie as a replacement for Billiat should he decide to leave. Sundowns have already added another striker in George Lebese who joined from Kaizer Chiefs. That Billiat wants out is not a unique development in the game where players have been coming forth to express their desires to move to new adventures lately.
Earlier this month Brazilian star Neymar pulled a shock move when he handed Barcelona a transfer request and eventually moved to PSG despite also having a huge buyout clause hanging over his contract with the Catalans.
“The player Neymar Jr, accompanied by his father and agent, has informed FC Barcelona this morning of his decision to leave the club in a meeting held at the club’s offices. The club refer to the buyout clause of his existing contract, which, as of 1 July, totals 222 million euros,” a statement on Barca’s official website read.
“Faced with this position, the Club has informed them they refer to the buy-out clause of his existing contract which as of 1 July totals 222 million euros which will have to be deposited in its entirety.
“The player remains under contract at FC Barcelona but with temporary permission to not take part in training sessions.”
Neymar eventually got his way round and has since moved to the French giants.
Liverpool’s star striker Philippe Coutinho is also facing the same predicament like Billiat with the Reds manager Jurgen Klopp saying Coutinho “cannot play for Liverpool in this moment” and labelled the Brazilian’s absence from the team as a “blow.” Coutinho did not travel with the Liverpool squad to Germany for the first leg of their Champions League play-off tie against Hoffenheim tonight, as uncertainty around his future remains.
The Brazil international handed in a transfer request on Friday, but Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, remain adamant the player will not be sold after rejecting two offers from Barcelona.
Earlier in February Sundowns had also appeared resigned to losing Billiat after the Warriors’ star made an impression at the 2017 Nations Cup finals to justify why he was named as the best on-field footballer, plying his trade on the continent last year, by the Confederation of African Football.
The expectations were so high that Sundowns, had even recruited a replacement for Billiat in January after resigning to lose the former CAPS United man and his two fellow forwards — Keegan Dolly and Leanardo Castro.
“It’s not just Keagan, there may be two other players that may have to go (Khama Billiat and Leonardo Castro). And we are looking at bringing in two others,” club owner Patrice Motsepe said last month before his club subsequently released a statement making it clear they had made provisions for the replacement of the trio.
“Mamelodi Sundowns specifically brought Sibusiso Vilakazi, Yannick Zakri and Thapelo Morena to the club to replace Keagan Dolly and a few other players that we expect to release to other European clubs,” the statement said.
“We expect as part of our 10-year plan to release some of our players to top European clubs but also to develop quality players at our Academy and to continue bringing the best South African, African and South American players to the club.”
But while Dolly left, after signing a long-term deal with French Ligue 1 club Montpellier, Billiat remained stuck at Sundowns. If Mosimane’s latest sentiments are anything to go by, then Billiat could this time eventually leave the Brazilians and take his illustrious career on a new adventure. – HERALD