Johannesburg – The most surprising move of this transfer window came towards the end of last week, when Andile Jali, the Orlando Pirates midfield general, in the blink of an eye jetted off to Belgium to join KV Oostende.
It is not a surprise that a man with the obvious talent of Jali has found himself a European deal, and one hopes, for his and Bafana Bafana’s sake, that the 23 year-old goes on to realise his immense potential on the playing fields of Belgium.
The surprise is, firstly, that all the noises coming out of Pirates were that Jali would be signing a new contract with the Buccaneers. Jali even posted a picture of himself on Instagram a few days ago, in a Pirates shirt, holding a pen, apparently with a contract in front of him, with the tagline “I’m not going anywhere, like it or not.”
Before you could say “Buccaneer for life,” however, the midfield maestro was leaving Soweto on a jet-plane.
More than this, the biggest shock to me is that Pirates have chosen to let Jali go now, with a few days left in the transfer window, and little time to find a suitable replacement. The Buccaneers seem in denial about their own actions, with no official word yet coming out of Pirates about the Jali deal.
It was left to Jali’s agency, Prosport International, to break news of Jali’s transfer over the weekend, before KV Oostende confirmed the deal on their official website on Sunday.
Pirates have been conspicuous by their silence, while Pirates coach Roger de Sa is the man right now left to paper over the cracks, as the Buccaneers attempt to mount a title challenge, with more league games to play than anyone else in 2014.
De Sa would not have been involved in the Jali transfer, though it is old news that Pirates coaches rarely have much of a say in the comings and goings at the Buccaneers.
Yet the fact is that the Pirates coach has been left short in central midfield, with Manti Moholo also sent on loan to Golden Arrows in this transfer window.
Lehlohonolo Masalesa did well when deputising for an injured Jali in the African Champions League last year, and again excelled in a Man of the Match performance against Ajax Cape Town on Monday night.
But the Bucs do seem one injury away from a midfield crisis.
Pirates’ bench on Monday included Mpho Makola and Joseph Malongoane, who between them have only played just over an hour’s league football so far this season.
To my mind, by selling Jali now, however much money they got, Pirates are cutting off their nose to spite their own face, and it is now hard to see them mounting a title challenge this season.