Johannesburg – Clive Barker believes Andile Jali can become another Benni McCarthy and make it big in Europe, while his nephew Steve Barker feels the player is “strong mentally” to survive playing in a completely new environment.
The 23-year-old Jali has signed for Belgian club KV Oostende from Orlando Pirates, a move veteran coach Barker thinks is just a stepping stone to the English Premier League, a league McCarthy moved to and played in for six years after winning the Uefa Champions League with Portuguese giants FC Porto.
“I think he will be a sensation abroad and I feel this move is just a stepping stone to a bigger league in Europe. I feel he is best suited for the English League because he is a box to box midfielder who has got a big engine in him. He can run all day and I just think he is a fantastic talent. He is a wonderful player who was a huge success at Pirates,” said Clive, who worked with Jali on the Coca Cola Football Stars programme in 2007.
“I see similarities in him and Benni McCarthy. Benni went all the way in Europe and I think Jali can do that too. I hope he can emulate Benni,” he added.
The former Bafana Bafana coach says he knew the Matatiele born player would be a star the first time he saw him.
“Like Benni, after just four minutes, I could see that he (Jali) was a talented player.
“I am sure he will dominate at the level he will be playing at. This is good for him and his family because I know his mother and father worked hard for him. I think he will be a great ambassador for the country in Europe.”
Jali joined University of Pretoria in the National First Division in 2007 from the Coca-Cola Football Stars programme, working closely with the younger Barker, the AmaTuks coach who remembers the midfielder as “shy” the first time they met.
“He was part of Coca-Cola Football Stars which was held here at the University of Pretoria. Clive and the other scouts were raving about this boy they had found from the Eastern Cape. We were desperate to see him and then when we did see him, we were keen to have him on board.
“He came here as a shy kid, but he had this arrogance about him on the field. But off the field he was this shy boy. We were sad when we lost him (to Pirates), but we could not stand in his way.”
Jali, who was signed by Pirates after his impressive performances in the 2009 Nedbank Cup with the University of Pretoria, is often described as “arrogant”.
However the AmaTuks coach says the player is misunderstood. “It’s not bad arrogant. It’s good arrogant.
“He is very confident and he is not afraid of anybody on the field of play. He has a lot of confidence in his ability and you need that sometimes to play at the highest level, like (Cristiano) Ronaldo.
“We (at AmaTuks) were always of the opinion that he could play overseas. He has proven to be one of the best players in the country and he has been very consistent. He deserves this move. He must spend two years there (in Belgium) and then move to a bigger league. We wish him all the best.”
Jali joins Darren Keet, Anele Ngcongca and Ayanda Patosi who play their football in Belgium’s top tier.
Other South Africans in the country are Phakamani Mngadi and Nthutuko Radebe, who play for Eupen FC in the Belgian Association League, while Masilo Modubi plays for second division club Dessel Sport.
Jali, winner of two league titles, will be a teammate of Zimbabwean Nyasha Mush-ekwi, who is on loan at Oostend from Mamelodi Sundowns.