DURBAN - Mamelodi Sundowns boss Pitso “Jingles” Mosimane has described Asavela Mbekile as the best right-back in the country, but feels the utility player doesn’t want to operate in this position.
Mbekile arrived at the Brazilians as a defensive central midfielder but has found himself operating in different roles. One of the them is at right-back. Unfortunately, Mbekile’s progress has been hampered by injuries, which has limited his playing time and seen Thapelo Morena make the right back position his own.
If he is not playing, Anele Ngcongca - an experienced defender at Sundowns who has spent much of his time in Belgium, France and in the senior national setup - seems to be the other, preferred option.
So, it is surprising that Mosimane has decreed Mbekile as the best right-back in the land.
“I believe Mbekile is the best right-back in the country. I’m not lying. Mbekile,” exclaimed Mosimane. “I think he is the best right-back but he is not happy to play right-back. He doesn’t want to play right-back for us.
“It is the same as Rama (Ramahlwe Mphahlele). I think he is a centre-back rather then a right-back and I used him at centre-back. Modjeka Madisha is a six (a left-back). Bangaly Soumahoro is also a six,” Mosimane explained.
After his injury, Mbekile has struggled for game time at Sundowns.
Mosimane, meanwhile, went on to explain his thought-process regarding converting players’ positions and how his track-record has vindicated his decisions when doing so.
“Bongani Zungu was playing on the right or as a 10 at Tuks. He scored a lot of goals for Tuks playing with Mame Niang. I think he scored about eight goals that season and I said that I must have him but I also said that is not a 10," he explained.
“I said to myself that he is a six. He cried when I told him I will use him as the six. He said: ‘You will use me as a six? I’m scoring goals,’ and I told him in the short-term you were right at Tuks as a 10 or on the right.
“I told him in the long-term you are a six. He mourned but he has made two transfers as a six. Sboniso Gaxa,” contined Mosimane, “he was the centre-back at SuperSport. He marked Collins Mbesuma out of the game. At that time Mbesuma had scored 35 goals but Gaxa made a big name for himself that day.
“I told him I would play him at right-back. He also cried and said: ‘Ha, ha, ha, coach ufuna ukungibulala ke manje (you want to kill me now).
“He said I’m a centre-back and I told him, look at your height and look at your body. I said are you quick? And he said yes, and I told him if you want to play international football, you need a life-changer to right-back. You must ask him, he was not happy.
“In 2010, in the World Cup, he was playing at the right-back and the world was watching him. I asked him do you want to go to centre-back or right-back and he said no, right-back, and he was smiling. So, I do make those changes.”
In the current situation, Mosimane believes that Morena should operate as right-back when Bafana are playing at home, with Mphahlele used in away matches.