Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are set to reignite their rivalry during the off-season for the signature of Bloemfontein Celtic striker Tshegofatso Mabasa.
The 22-year-old impressed at the Free State outfit in the recently-concluded season, banging in nine goals to help his side secure a top-eight spot in the league, despite well-documented turmoil behind the scenes.
Mabasa affectionately known among fans as ‘Predator’ claimed second place in the PSL top goal scorers chart alongside Bidvest Wits’ Gift Motupa and Pirates’ Thembinkosi Lorch.
With all the drama that has been happening, Mabasa is well on his way to join one of the two giants that are on record regarding his services. The financial instability Celtic could see him out of the club, with South Africa’s two most popular teams said to be interested in bringing him on board.
This is after Phunya Sele Sele survived a tumultuous season off the field, with players and fans alike voicing their displeasure over the club’s dire finances.
Of the two teams, Kaizer Chiefs are the most desperate of the two to rebuild after an abysmal showing in the 2018/19 season, where they finished a lowly ninth in the league.
In 30 matches, Amakhosi only managed 33 league goals with Khama Billiat emerging as the club’s top goalscorer with a paltry five goals, while key center forward Leonardo Castro only returned four goals in his first full season at Naturena.
The club is currently a striker short, having parted ways with Venezuelan marksman Gustavo Paez, while Ryan Moon is reportedly also set to make an exit.
With Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp, off the radar, assistant coach Shaun Bartlett revealed the technical team has been hard at work on a recruitment drive for new players.
The team’s lack of depth and quality was exposed as they extended their drought to four seasons without silverware.
“Since the day after the final, we have been busy working. As a technical team we have looked at a few players and have given the names to the management,” Bartlett told the team’s website.
“We can’t fool ourselves to think that we will go from ninth to winning the league. We need to freshen up a little and bring in players with a different hunger and desire,” he noted.
The club has already been linked with Zesco United Zambian striker Lazarus Kambole and Polokwane City midfielder Sammy Seabi. The team is also set to part ways with a number of players.
Last week, Chiefs released a statement where they promised fans that “the rebuilding process for the 2019/20 season is already underway and all the necessary actions will be taken to ensure we restore this iconic institution to where it rightfully belongs”.
Bartlett admitted the club will be off-loading a handful of players in the coming weeks.
“Probably five or six players will get released. We also have to see who has not played a part in the past season … but it will not be a big list,” he said.
After their Nedbank Cup final loss in Durban, there was uncertainty about coach Ernst Middendorp and his technical team’s future. However, Baxter said they will still be in charge of the team next season. “As far as we know as the technical team, everybody will still be there going forward.”
Mabasa who expressed deep shock on his exclusion from the national squad could not be drawn to comment on the topic, only saying: “I think any player would very much like to play for both teams. These are the two team in which South African football has practically been built and to get an opportunity to play for either would indeed be a pleasure.”
With so much uncertainty surrounding Phunya Sele Sele, the club is yet to comment on the issue, with other players expected to leave the club for greener pastures ahead of the new season.
Sources inside the club have confirmed to that Mabasa will not feature for the club next season, saying he is eager to prove himself a worthy player.
“I can tell you now that Mabasa will not be playing for Celtic come next season. He has made it clear that he wants to go and the club will certainly cash in on him to gain a few pennies to see it through,” said one of the Celtic managers who wished to remain unanimous.
Asked about the possibility of the club losing more experienced players, with Bongani Sam also eager to join his former coach Steve Komphela at Golden Arrows, supporters club national chairperson, Mabena Pule said: “Players want to leave not because of the club situation. They want Celtic to have a new owner then they will stay.” Mabena noted it would be unfortunate for the club to lose its best players in such an unfortunate manner/
“These boys have played their hearts out for Siwele and I can assure you they would stay if we could gurantee the status quo will not be same come next sean, something we cannot do at this point in time,” he added.