Playing in Europe not always financially viable for SA's top players
His list of clients includes the creme de la creme of SA’s top talent. At various stages, Siphiwe “Shabba” Tshabalala, Teko Modise and Itumeleng Khune were all under his wing. Mahlakgane still works with Tshabalala and Modise, who recently retired.
Other stars who work with Mahlakgane include Siphelele Ntshangase, Siphesihle Ndlovu, Happy Jele, Themba Zwane and Thembinkosi Lorch.
Despite his failure to export most of these top stars, the agent has done a fine job in making sure that his clients get good endorsement deals. Mahlakgane’s attitude towards foreign leagues is clear - it must be worth separating players from their home country.
“Overseas is overrated for me, unless the player is going to a top European league,” Mahlakgane said.
“Players earn good salaries in South Africa. If you go overseas, you have tax to pay, rent for your place to stay, take care of your own family back home, and still live that side. So, can you see that financially you can end up losing because football is a short-term career? If you leave at an early age and go to a top European league where you will earn top money, then it is good.”
Mahlakgane has, however, found teams for a few of his players. Tshabalala and Tefo Mashamaite are two notable players to have signed for European clubs.
“Yes, I did do a deal of Mashamaite and Shabba, but look at their age. It was a good deal at their age. That’s why we did it. I’m not saying players should stay at home, but look at it this way - if you’re playing in South Africa and you are earning your salary plus endorsements and less tax compared to abroad, that makes good financial sense,” Mahlakgane elaborated.
Tshabalala joined Erzurumspor of Turkey in 2018 from Kaizer Chiefs, while Mashamiate left Amakhosi in 2015 and penned a deal with Swedish outfit BK Hacken. Both were arguably in the twilight of their careers.
“Sometimes with these endorsements, it depends whether the company sponsoring you is an international entity or not. Most of the time, I do car endorsements. You will find that these endorsements require a client to drive their car in and around the country,” Mahlakgane said, explaining the role of sponsorships in deciding whether players move overseas.
Mahlakgane believes that how players handle themselves on and off the field is also key in securing sponsorships.