While Kaizer Chiefs followers should rightfully celebrate the arrival of striker Leonardo Castro from Mamelodi Sundowns, it should be of some concern that the Colombian is the first real marquee signing since Steve Komphela took over as Amakhosi coach.
It’s incredibly difficult to think of someone else who would have been a keynote purchase from the day Komphela walked in at Naturena nearly three seasons ago to replace the high-achieving Stuart Baxter.
To be fair, there was some signal of intent from the club to refresh a squad that had won the championship twice in three years – spending big money on defender Siyanda Xulu, who had fallen on hard times at Rostov in Russia with a racist coach, and raiding Free State Stars for the services of the impressive pair of another centreback in Daniel Cardoso and forward Camaldine Abraw.
It’s old news now that the Togolese striker was a flop, although much of that has to do with a career-threatening (and possibly ending) injury in his second season at Chiefs.
Xulu didn’t quite hit it off with Komphela, and even today we are still not sure why.
Cardoso is the only one of those signings that has remained at the club. It is unfortunate that his improvement has been overshadowed by the fact that Amakhosi have not won a trophy since May 2015, while Scotsman Baxter was in charge.
Castro’s quality is unquestionable, but he may need time to adapt – first to regain match fitness, having not featured much for Sundowns in the final few months of his stay there and secondly to adapt to the style of play at Chiefs.
I guarantee you it will be a lot trickier to understand Komphela than it was Pitso Mosimane.
The reality, though, is that the Castro signing is a little too late – perhaps not for this season, but in the greater scheme of things.
Those who have wanted to see Komphela, the first South African coach hired by chairman Kazier Motaung since 1994, succeed have argued that not enough funds were made available to at least give him a leg-up for achievement.
Compare his tenure to that of Baxter, for instance.
Upon his arrival, Chiefs went on a shopping spree: Brilliant Khuzwayo, Morgan Gould, Mulomowandau Mathoho, Tsepo Masilela, Siboniso Gaxa, Siyabonga Nkosi and Kingston Nkhatha.
No prizes for guessing that Baxter won the Absa Premiership at the first time of asking with this strong squad and again two years later.
What did Komphela get?
Actually, let’s not even waste time on reminding you about that list.
He’s surely now faced with the likelihood of his contract not being renewed. We’ve said over and over again that to not win a trophy so far in his tenure has lost him some major points.
Don’t be surprised if Castro is rushed into the team. At least he does have the advantage of having been in South Africa for nearly three years, and scored 15 goals from 35 matches in that time.
Get this – he and Gustavo Paez, Amakhosi’s hope for goals this season, share an agent and would have been dreaming about this strike partnership for some time now.
Castro really could be a hit, but Chiefs fans shouldn’t overlook the fact that management hasn’t necessarily backed the coach in the transfer market – an admission Komphela himself made last year when he quipped: “The signings are not my preferred choice, but they fit the Chiefs way.”
Well, there you go.