Johannesburg – Having joined his new teammates at Kaizer Chiefs, former Mamelodi Sundowns striker Katlego Mphela says he is looking forward to returning to fitness and reviving his career in Soweto.
Chiefs completed the transfer of out-of-favour Mphela earlier this month, agreeing to sign him on a pre-contract, which takes effect in June when his current deal at Sundowns expires.
Chiefs, however, successfully negotiated his early release, in the form of a loan deal that takes him to Naturena until the end of the season, at which time he will officially sign his contract with the Glamour Boys.
“At Sundowns it was frustrating for me because I lost my place in the national team and I had to move on and that’s how it is,” Mphela said at his unveiling at Chiefs’ headquarters on Monday.
“It feels awesome because I see chances of winning many medals here, because the chances of them winning the league are there, so I’m just here to bring my experience, to help where I can and do what I can do best, scoring goals. Hopefully I will revive my career and maybe go back to the national team as well.”
Mphela’s loan – and subsequent contract agreement – brings an end to a five-year stint at the Brazilians, where the controversial striker became one of South Africa’s deadliest finishers, earning him the nickname “Killer”.
Despite his reputation for goal-getting, Mphela failed to impress Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane, who could only provide limited first-team opportunities to the Bafana Bafana international.
“I spent half of my career at Sundowns, so to come here ... feels like a new life for me and it feels good,” Mphela said of his time at Chloorkop.
He also added that reports of a rift between himself and Mosimane were unfounded and revealed that the two shared a friendly relationship both on and off the pitch.
“I don’t think anything went wrong. Pitso had his plans and maybe he wanted to see some new players. There’s no bad blood between Pitso and me. We’re still good friends and I’d obviously like to thank him, because he played a big role in my career. But life goes on.”
Meanwhile, Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter said he was pleased to have signed the attacker, who would provide additional options upfront, while the likes of Bernard Parker and Kingston Nkhatha would partner the new arrival.
“Katlego has some qualities that we want as a Chiefs way of playing,” Baxter said.
“He gives us different options. I’ve got my ideas of how I want to use him. I’m sure that when we start playing and working together, he will show me a few things that I have not seen already.”
The pair first started working together when Baxter was appointed Bafana boss a decade ago.
“It will be a gradual gelling with the lads (team). I’m happy with the strikers that we’ve got, I’m happy with the squad that we’ve got.
“I’m sure, once he’s 100 percent fit and once he knows the way we play and we utilise him properly, then I think he’s going to be a very good acquisition. I’ve got a lot of time for him as a player. I know that he can do the job for us.”
Baxter, though, was quick to quash notions that Mphela would walk into his team unchallenged, admitting that the prolific goal-scorer would first need to prove his fitness, which had become an issue, due to a lack of game-time.
“We’ve got to see at the moment. Katlego’s going to start training. We’ll monitor his fitness, we’ll give him a few tests,” Baxter said.
“He’s going to work in a positive environment where he’s not going to be hit on the back. We want to put him into areas on the field where he can do his business.
“That’s the challenge we’ve got, both of us, to work that out.” – Sapa