Pitso Mosimane hasn’t given up trying to convince Khama Billiat to stay, even though this afternoon the Zimbabwean forward is likely to be playing his last league match for Sundowns.
If Jingles can’t convince the 27-year-old to stay, he will still wish him well in his new adventure because he understands just how telling Billiat’s contribution has been at Sundowns in his five years since arriving at Chloorkop from Ajax Cape Town in 2013.
Billiat will bow out in style should this afternoon’s match against Bloemfontein Celtic at Dr. Molemela Stadium be his last league game for Sundowns.
The Zimbabwean will lift the Absa Premiership trophy for the second time in his career. The winner’s medal he will get will join the Nedbank Cup, Telkom Knockout, Caf Champions League and Caf Super Cup winner’s medals he amassed with the Tshwane giants, along with the Footballer of the Year award he received in 2016.
“We paid big money for him and everyone was saying how can you spend so much money on a 22-year-old?
"But if you look at the number of trophies we have won, he has been at the heart of that success - in fact leading us, then you appreciate and you accept that he might not be here (next season) but he gave us a lot during his time,” Mosimane said.
“If he stays, it’s a legacy that we are building. He has contributed so much in the last five years. We love him and he knows that the team loves him. But you know me, I won’t stop trying to change his mind because where there is life there is hope. I still believe that it’s possible. Anything is possible.”
This was a low-key season for Billiat according to his own high standards. His contribution nonetheless was immense, scoring eight goals in 16 matches in the league. Those goals were crucial, especially the two he scored against Bidvest Wits, the one against Platinum Stars in Phokeng and the magical one against Cape Town City which ended the Citizens’ dominance over the Brazilians while also eliminating the Cape side from the league race.
Billiat was this week named in Caf’s Champions League Team of the Week from the opening round of matches in the group stage.
“This was like the first year when he joined us.” Mosimane said. “It was hectic with injuries. But injuries are part of football. You have to accept and understand that these things happen. But even with the injuries, whenever he is on the pitch - he really shows that I am important at the club, I am a good football player and I play with my heart when I am injury free. He helped us. He scores when he is there.”
What’s been remarkable about the situation is the professionalism from the club and the Zimbabwean despite reaching an impasse in the contract negotiations in January.
Even though it has been certain for some time that Billiat would go at the end of the season, as he didn’t sign an extension of the contract that ends in June, which meant he could have signed a pre-contract in January, the club has consistently played him and he has delivered.
“We played Keagan Dolly until his last match,” Mosimane said.
“We played Bongani Zungu until his last match. We’ll play Khama until his last match, why not? He’s been proper whenever he comes in. You saw him against Ajax, he wasn’t even fully fit but he came, scored and he contributed. He’s been good. Whenever he is there, he’s showed a very good and positive attitude. He’s matured now. He is no longer a youngster. We are happy with him.
“I would love to have a player like Khama again for the next three years at Sundowns.”