Johannesburg - In what is perhaps the biggest story of the transfer window so far in the Premier Soccer League, the reigning league champions Bidvest Wits on Wednesday signed former Bafana Bafana captain Steven Pienaar, who had become a free agent after coming to the end of his contract with relegated English Premier League side Sunderland last month.
“We have agreed to a one-year contract with an option to renew it for one more year at the end of the upcoming season” said Wits chief executive Jose Ferreira.
“It is not like we have not been offered Steven before because agents call us all the time about players, but the truth is that we only started speaking on Tuesday and concluded everything the next day. He chose the champions, and the best team in the league, and he knows it.”
It’s a clear signal of intent from the Clever Boys to arm themselves with heavy artillery as they attempt to defend their title, which was the first one in the club’s history in 96 years.
Pienaar, 35, was expected to return home at the beginning of last season and was linked with a move to Orlando Pirates, a club he has publicly admitted to supporting growing up and even today, but David Moyes, who signed the midfielder while at Everton several years ago, convinced him to join Sunderland for a season when he took over.
He managed 15 appearances during a horrendous campaign for The Black Cats and has decided to return to a league where his career began with Ajax Cape Town in 1999 before he moved to parent club Ajax Amsterdam two years later, going on to enjoy a glittering career.
A veteran of two World Cups representing Bafana Bafana at the 2002 global showpiece in Korea and Japan as well as on home soil in 2010, Pienaar retired from international football five years ago, citing a need to focus on his club football to prolong his desire to play at the highest level as his reasons.
Pirates, by the admission of chairman Irvin Khoza last year, did in fact attempt to lure Pienaar to the Buccaneers, but the move failed to materialise.
Wits have seemingly hit the jackpot by acquiring his signature even if it is just for a season – the general feeling being that he will be a massive addition to their squad if he stays fit. Pienaar has often been injury prone, with a troublesome calf injury keeping him out of the Sunderland first team in the English Premier League last season.
Meanwhile, striker Ndumiso Mabena has been linked to a move to Kaizer Chiefs after he parted ways with Platinum Stars. It is believed negotiations stalled between the club and a player that has been arguably their goal poacher for the past several years.
Should he join Amakhosi, who on Monday announced the signing of Philani Zulu from Maritzburg United and Teenage Hadebe from Chicken In, it will be as a free agent.