Pretoria - Tough economic conditions, exorbitant price tags on players, player security concerns and lack of quality have led to less activity in the transfer market.
The transfer window, which closes at the end of next month, has seen little action from even the country’s top teams.
With the exception of Mamelodi Sundowns, who have access to a bottomless budget thanks to billionaire owner Patrice Motsepe’s muscle, notable players in the market - Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and SuperSport United - have not spent much on new players.
Though Sundowns have recruited about eight players, Chiefs and Pirates combined have not signed more than five.
Those with insight of the market attribute the lack of activity to a number of factors.
Agent Mike Makaab said the global economic climate and heavy price tags placed on players affected trading.
With a slight increase in unemployment, hikes in food and petrol prices, economic conditions remained unfavourable and affected a number of clubs.
A number of PSL clubs are struggling to land sponsorships, making it difficult for them to buy players.
“Countries are cutting down on spending. That’s also in sport. The rest of the world and even us, should expect a slowdown in activities in the market. One of the concerns for clubs is that they don’t want to buy and not be able to meet their debt obligations. Under the economic climate, top teams would be selective in terms of who they sign. If they buy a player, they would go for someone who has the potential to deliver or hope they deliver immediately. If not, they want to sign someone better than what they have,” said Makaab, whose clients include Sibusiso Vilakazi, Bernard Parker, Andile Jali and Knowledge Musona.
That some teams demand much more on players is also a contributing factor to the lack of activity in the market.
Makaab says what is demanded for services of certain players is not in line with the market rate.
“Sometimes the demands on clubs are a bit too much. The transfer fees are exorbitant. They are not in line with the market,” said Makaab, a former Pirates coach.
Another agent Walter Mokoena, who is also a TV personality, says South African players are expensive, hence some clubs are crossing borders in search of talent.
In comparison with locals, players from Zimbabwe, a country going through difficult economic times, are said to be relatively cheaper.
“Local players are expensive. If clubs want a certain player, the club raises the price. Clubs are going to Zimbabwe and to some extent Zambia because the locals are expensive. The other thing is that there’s not enough talent coming through in the country,” said Mokoena, who manages Mandla Masango, Dino Ndlovu and Happy Jele among others.
“There’s also not a lot money swirling around in the country. Besides Sundowns, other teams operate on very strict budgets. Chiefs have not been busy in the market. That should tell something. The lack of activity shows economic strain.”
The quality of local players is also questioned. By and large, South African football has been on a downward spiral with poor displays due to the dearth of exceptional players.
“There are no exciting players at the moment. The ones that are exciting are under contract,” said Jazzman Mahlakgane, another local agent. “Clubs buy if it is quality. They want players who can hit the ground running. Three years ago, the market was good. Clubs don’t want to sign average players.”
Mahlakgane, who counts Teko Modise, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Tefu Mashamaite and Themba Zwane among his clients, says clubs and players are also treading carefully as far as moves are concerned.
“Players are also cautious of making moves. They don’t want to regret. Clubs are cautious about how they spend. They are watching their spending. They want quality, but quality has to be unearthed.”
That many a big name player are not making movements has to do with pricing of players and their comfort zones.
“For a transfer to happen, it depends on the availability of a player and also their desire to join a particular team. It goes beyond the economics of football. Remember that three parties – players, the selling club and the buying club must also be satisfied. It can’t be easy.”
With just over a month to go before the end of the transfer season, it remains to be seen if there would be changes in the market. Makaab, Mokoena and Mahlakgane believe if emphasis was put on developing players, the country would do better.