Bidvest Wits' finances: Where there's smoke, there's fire.
Those are two of the questions that need to be asked, considering it was not so long ago that they could afford any player they wanted.
Yes, one of the oldest clubs in South African football, Bidvest Wits, are allegedly bankrupt and might be under new ownership in the coming months. This follows reports that Bidvest is financially threatened.
However, those in the know will tell you the signs of the club being in financial trouble have been there in the last three seasons.
Remember how they fell from the dizzying heights of being able to attract all the stalwarts in South African football to a team that could only afford freebies during the pre-season transfer windows?
It is well documented that the signatures of local experienced players including Moeneeb Josephs, Daine Klate, Siboniso Gaxa and Elias Pelembe, as well as international imports Simon Murray and James Keene, didn’t come cheap when they joined the club many moons ago.
Sure, they worked for their money. As Wits ended their 96-year wait to win their Premiership title - and the MTN8 trophy - four seasons ago, a large chunk of their success was due to the experience of some of these seasoned campaigners.
But of the lot, how many have remained at the club or were sold? Astonishingly, Pelembe is the only multiple Premiership winner still at the club, while the rest of the players have since left for free in the last few seasons.
Gavin Hunt is an astute coach who’s also polished raw diamonds into renowned household names. Remember how he gave Bafana Bafana’s all-time top goal scorer Benni McCarthy his debut at Seven Stars at 17 years of age in 1995?
Surely it was always inevitable that the 55-year-old coach would turn ordinary players into Clever Boys. Thabang Monare, Vincent Pule, Ben Motshwari, Gabadinho Mhango and Xola Mlambo ascended from being trophy-less and ordinary footballers into championship stalwarts.
However, three seasons later, how many of these proteges have remained at the club to reap the fruits of Hunt’s labour? Disappointingly it’s only been Monare.
Mlambo, Mtshwari and Pule were all part of the Orlando Pirates team that were chasing for the league title in the last two seasons.
To add salt to the wounds, Hunt couldn’t hang onto the services of Mhango this season as he also became a Buccaneer during the last transfer window, albeit having exercised the option on his contract with the Braamfontein-based outfit.
The new “selling policy” might have been done to balance the books, something that could also be earmarked as a bid to recover all the money that they spent went they brought Steven Pienaar and Bongani Khumalo - who had stints in the English Premier League - back to South African Football.
But instead of the pressure easing off, things just seemed to go further south for the club.
The initial cracks were clearly visible in the last transfer window when Wits announced that they’d be focusing on the domestic season more than their participation in the Caf Confederation Cup.
At the same press conference, the club unveiled the signings of freebies.
However, it was also an open secret that a large chunk of the behind-the-scenes personnel had been retrenched as Bidvest had hit a financial pothole - one they can’t seem to get out of.
Fast forward to the last few weeks and it has emerged that the club is up for sale. The club’s chief operations officer José Ferreira has refuted the recent rumours about the Clever Boys, but reports coming from Limpopo say that businessman Masala Mulaudzi has already deposited R10-million to the club as security.
Mulaudzi recently sold his GladAfrica Championship side Tshakuma Tsha Madzivhandila last week for the same figure, saying that he’s venturing into buying the status of one of the top-flight football clubs.
Should the sale go through, it will confirm the speculations that have been surrounding the club for the last 10 months. After all, as the old mantra goes, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”.