Free State Stars coach Luc Eymael has found a clever little way to strengthen and recruit for a side criticised by his predecessors for lacking in quality players to keep up with the pace of the Absa Premiership.
“We are trying finalise an agreement with a striker (Amido Balde), who is a foreigner as we have one more space for a foreigner,” Eymael said after his side narrowly beat Cape Town City 1-0 at Goble Park on Saturday night to move to second on the table.
The result – and their overall form this season – has defied the odds, and the Belgian-born mentor has contradicted Ea Lla Koto’s former coaches, who argued that part of the reason the club battled to keep their Premier League status was due to not having players of the level required to do more than just survive.
Balde, a 26-year-old centre forward who is 1.93m tall and has been in Portugal, Scotland as well as Belgium among a long list of countries, watched Stars give a polished performance to win against Benni McCarthy’s City.
Should a deal be confirmed this week, which looks likely, he will be the second January transfer the club has brought in on Eymael’s recommendation following the arrival of Harris Tchilimbou, who has started two matches and bagged the winning goal on Saturday night.
“He (Balde) didn’t play a lot last season, but I hope he will give us some help and will show me good things at training,” the coach explained. “With his experience and his height, we will just need to get him fit. This is also competition for the other strikers.”
Eymael is bringing another forward in as a back up because of the uncertain future of Mohamed Anas and Edward Manqele, who are being courted by Bidvest Wits and Chippa United respectively.
Anas dropped to the bench against City, while Manqele suffered an injury the day before the match and watched from the stands.
“We want to be ready in case they depart. I don’t want to be surprised,” said Eymael. “I know Manqele would like to go to Chippa, but we are waiting for an offer. Like I have said before, I don’t mind allowing a player to earn more money at another club. We don’t have a big squad as it is, so we have to try and hold on to some players. You can see what impact Tchilimbou has had even though he is not yet 100 percent fit.”