JOHANNESBURG – While many are still dumbfounded by claims from his agent that Khama Billiat snubbed several offers to play abroad and opted to join Kaizer Chiefs instead, Amakhosi coach Giovanni Solinas is counting his blessings.
The Italian mentor reaffirmed the assertion that Billiat, 27, was good enough to move to Europe, saying the former Mamelodi Sundowns talisman could do what he’s done here “comfortably” at an even higher level.
Billiat was at his best yet again on Saturday night, scoring the third goal in Chiefs’ 3-0 thumping of Free State Stars to advance to the semi-finals of the MTN8. It was also a first victory for Solinas following a draw away against Sundowns and a 3-1 defeat at home against Wits in league matches last week.
“For me he is an amazing player,” Solinas said.
“A top player. In my opinion, and I don’t want this to be misunderstood as disrespect for other players, he is the best player in the league, the best striker.
Billiat, in my opinion, can play in Europe without a problem. This guy is not for this league. He can perform very well in Europe and comfortably.”
His agent was adamant recently that Billiat could have moved overseas when he decided not to renew his contract at Sundowns.
It’s been considered somewhat of a major coup for Chiefs to be able to sign the Zimbabwean when there was this much interest in his services, albeit from obscure leagues in Europe.
“It’s a privilege for me to be coaching Billiat, and (Leonardo) Castro together,” Solinas continued to swoon.
Apart from his own individual brilliance, among the key reasons why he has been able to adapt so quickly at Chiefs is likely due to the presence of a familiar face upfront in Castro, who he played together with at Sundowns when the Brazilians won the championship in 2016, also forming a deadly trio combination with Keagan Dolly, who now plays for Montpellier in the French top division.
“It’s an honour. This player makes the difference,” Solinas said. “I am very happy that I have this player in my squad, and I am glad I was asked the question so that I can talk about him.”
Chiefs looked a completely different outfit to the one that appeared so hapless at the same venue in the 3-1 loss to Wits on Tuesday.
Solinas made four changes to that line-up and continued to use Siphelele Ntshangase as a deep lying midfielder beside hardman Willard Katsande to help Chiefs with keeping possession and finding the pockets of spaces behind the opponents’ defence - it worked on Saturday.
“I think Ntshangase can play as a midfielder next to Katsande not just as a No 10,” the coach said of a player that joined Chiefs in January but struggled for game time under Steve Komphela.
“I know he is an offensive midfielder, but I want to convert him. He must play close to Katsande. I have said to him that he must please help in the defensive phase as well, drop 20 meters so that we can have two holding midfielders.”
Ntshangase was named Man of the Match against Stars at the weekend.