George Maluleka will get a chance to show why both Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns wanted his signature during the transfer window, when he’s set to make his debut for Amakhosi in tomorrow’s Absa Premiership clash between the sides.
Maluleka said this week reaching the decision about his future was “difficult” given that both giants wanted him, but it’s only tomorrow’s clash at Loftus Versfeld (7.30pm) that should give a glimpse as to who really lost out or who made gains.
“It was always going to be difficult to decide which of the two (Sundowns or Chiefs) to join, given that they are both big teams,” the former SuperSport United midfielder said after being officially introduced to the media as a Chiefs player on Monday.
“I had to think it through and in the end, I made a decision based on the environment here and the playing style, which I think suits me better. I’m not saying the Sundowns set-up is not right, but I have made my decision.”
Surely, as he agonised over who to sign with, it would have dawned on Maluleka that he had to prioritise playing time and, with Chiefs listing Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Willard Katsande, Siyabonga Nkosi and Lucky Baloyi as central midfielders, he stands a better chance of commanding a regular place than at Sundowns.
There, he would have faced competition from as many as seven players in his position, including others who are accustomed to turning up for training but never being in the reckoning for a starting berth.
But Maluleka knows the pressure at Chiefs is massive. For starters, he has been handed jersey number 12, which has a rich history at Amakhosi, most notably with the likes of Thabo Mooki having worn it, and there will be huge expectations from the club’s notoriously demanding followers.
“I am aware about the history of this jersey. I actually chose it. It goes back to the legends such as Thabo. I havespoken to him before but I think I may need to speak to him about it more,” said Maluleka.
Having first signed with SuperSport five seasons ago, Tembisa-born Maluleka made his name at Ajax Cape Town before returning to the Tswane side in 2012.
But according to Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter a move to a big team is what he requires to fulfill his immense potential.
“George is an interesting signing,” Baxter said. “It think his career showed a lot of promise too early, but his development stopped for some reason.
“This may be the time to kick-start that development for him to be a better player. He’s an intelligent player who understands what we want tactically. He has a range of passes and just needs to improve on his decision-making.”
Maluleka, meanwhile, said signing for Chiefs was a dream come true because he had supported the club in his childhood days.
“It feels great to be at a club I supported when I was young,” the 25-year-old said.
“Like many youngsters, when you grow up you dream of playing one of the big teams, Chiefs, Pirates or Sundowns.
“I’m here now and I can only want to go overseas from here.”
Meanwhile, ahead of tomorrow’s top-of-the-table clash, Sundowns reported yesterday that key central defenders Alje Schut and Rashid Sumaila are “doubtful” due to injuries.
“Schut is nursing a hip injury, while Sumalia is still recovering from the hamstring pull he suffered in Sundowns’ last league match (last month) against Maritzburg,” the club said. - The Star