Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Mbazo stuck between rock and a hard place

2011 has hardly been best year so far for Aaron Mokoena. Sensationally dropped by Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane back in March for the squad's biggest game since the 2010 World Cup, 'Mbazo' also saw his status as a first-team regular at Championship side Portsmouth brought into question as manager Steve Cotterill left the 30-year-old on the bench for the tail-end of the season.

He was back in the starting line-up for Monday night's 4-0 pre-season win over neighbours Havant and Waterlooville but with the competition for a starting spot likely to heat up as the first game of the new season gets closer, it's very doubtful whether he will stay there for long.

Recent stories that the player who won a total of 104 caps is therefore looking for a new club two years after his arrival from Blackburn Rovers were denied by Cotterill a couple of weeks ago, although he did hint he would be allowed to leave for 'a decent fee'. I've been in regular conversation with Mokoena's new agent Dietmar Wendorff (he split from long-term business manager Rob Moore - owner of the Extra Time Agency that also looks after Steven Pienaar and Benni McCarthy - just before the World Cup) and he insists his client has made it clear he would like to leave Fratton Park.

Where he will eventually end up is anyone's guess, although it is hard to imagine a return to the Premier League given the dramatic dip in his performance levels. The UAE has been mentioned by Wendorff as a possibility but given the fact that Mokoena has yet to announce his international retirement, only a move to another major European league would be enough to convince Mosimane he is worth a recall.

His actions after being dropped for the home African Nations Cup qualifier against Egypt in Johannesburg earlier this year may have burned his bridges for good, however. Understandably irked at Mosimane's failure to inform him personally that he was surplus to requirements for such a big match, Mbazo decided to get his retaliation in first and arranged a personal press conference on the eve of the match that most fans in South Africa agreed was ill-timed to say the least.

Regular football and a successful Championship season at Fratton Park may not help his quest to add to his 104 caps - even in a division that is becoming increasingly Bafana Bafana dominated of late. His chief rivals for a starting spot in the national team are both likely to be plying their trade at a similar level next term (Bongani Khuamlo is expected to go on loan from Spurs to Rangers or Bristol City and Morgan Gould is on trial at Crystal Palace this week) and they will take some dislodging after successive clean sheets against the triple African champions.

So it doesn't look good for the international career of a man who this time last year was the proud ambassador for his country's arrival on the global stage. But with his Pompey place also under threat and the riches that are meant to be on offer to him in the Emirates, Mokoena's best bet might be to take the money and run. 

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