Monday, 18 July 2011

Killer ready to become a big Bhoy

About time too. Two years after he announced himself to the world with a stunning 30 yard free kick that arrowed into the top corner past future World Cup winning captain Iker Casillas, Katlego Mphela finally looks to be on his way back to Europe after confirmation he will attend a trial at Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic next week.

Agent Glyn Binkin revealed the news to a fellow Kickoff reporter on Monday morning after a weekend that saw his current club Mamelodi Sundowns turn down a bid of around £1.3 million from Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa. Ukranian giants Dynamo Kiev have also shown an interest in signing a player who spent two seasons in France's Ligue Un as a teenager before returning home to rebuild his career in spectacular style, although it seems Neil Lennon's Bhoys are now in pole position.

And should the now 26-year-old who boasts an excellent record of 19 goals in 38 international appearances (second only to a certain Benni McCarthy in Bafana Bafana's all-time list) seal a switch to the SPL, it would finally end one of the most drawn-out transfer sagas in South African football history.

For those that don't know, Mphela became so disillusioned at Sundowns' unwillingness to allow him to test himself once more overseas that he went on strike back in January. For three weeks.

But before any Celtic fans say 'thanks, but no thanks', they should take time to consider the circumstances. Having added another goal from close range in Bafana's thrilling Confederations Cup third-place playoff against Spain in 2009 and begun the new domestic season on fire, his club were inundated with offers from Europe - including a firm £1.5 million from then Premier League side Birmingham City.

Bankrolled by the mining magnate Patrice Motsepe since 2004, Sundowns are known as South Africa's version of Chelsea or Manchester City and have a reputation for not selling players. In fact, the transfer of Bafana full back Siboniso Gaxa to Belgians FC Lierse after the 2010 World Cup (he also went on strike to force through the move) was actually the first time since 2005 that they had allowed anyone to leave the club for a fee.

So when Mphela saw Birmingham, then Russians Terek Grozny and finally Serbian champions Partizan Belgrade all have a series of bids turned down in the course of the next 18 months, he simply panicked. After three weeks of stalemate, national team coach Pitso Mosimane stepped in and arranged for the disillusioned striker to meet with Motsepe to discuss his future, with the club president eventually agreeing to allow his star striker to leave if he stayed until the end of the season.

Mphela returned to the Sundowns team and promptly scored five goals in his first three appearances back, before notching a crucial injury-time strike to lead Bafana to African Nations Cup qualifying victory over reigning champions Egypt. Not a bad advertisement really.

Blessed with searing pace and a lethal eye for goal, it seemed like only a matter if time before Killer would get the chance to put his nightmare spell in France behind him and now, finally, his chance seems to have arrived. Celtic should have no problems meeting the new asking price of around £1.5 million and if all goes to plan, Lennon could have picked up one of the best bargains of the transfer window. 

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