Money can't buy Barca's style
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Last Wednesday, Mamelodi Sundowns lost the third of their last four league matches as they went down to Kaizer Chiefs and with it, in all likelihood, the championship.GALLERY: Past weekend's sporting action
They had looked for all money like the team to beat this season and at one stage were perfectly positioned to run away with the title chase.
Instead now they will have to hope that other clubs do them a favour by beating Orlando Pirates and Moroka Swallows, who sit above them in the standings.
It effectively means a longer wait for the title for Patrice Motsepe, who continue to pump millions into the club but has nothing to show for it.
Maybe they will lift the Nedbank Cup on May 26 but let’s be honest, few rarely care!
The league is the Holy Grail and Sundowns have tried their best over the last five years to find it.
Motsepe has spent about R150 million since Gordon Igesund last delivered the title for the Brazilians. Igesund had been followed by a list of overpaid foreign coaches who have tried little to understand or appreciate the way things are done here.
Johan Neeskens is perhaps been a bit different. He is the first foreign coach I have heard in South Africa who can name players from the opposing team; some don’t even know the names of members of their own team!
Neeskens has been brought by Motsepe to implement the Barcelona way. The Sundowns chairperson is obsessed with the Spanish club and wants his team to be the Barca of the South. Sometimes I wonder whether it hasn’t been a curse on South African football, all this ‘Barca, Barca, Barca’. Everyone now wants to play like them but fail to realise they do not have the right resources. As a result, the league has lost some of that fighting, more combustible edge that made last season such an enjoyable campaign to watch. Now teams want to pass it around all day but can’t replicate those incisive touches the Catalans are so good at.
I have been trying hard to found some sympathy for Motsepe. After all, he is no football expert and so has entrusted his money to people who are supposed to advise him how best to invest it. But while Sundowns boast a great looking squad, they have also bought many flops.
At the same time it is hard to feel sorry for a man with all that cash who seems contended to splash it around on lost causes. At Sundowns it's not as much about the people hired as the culture of the place. On my rare trips to Chloorkop I have never been struck by a sense of style and authoritative self confidence that I think a club of its resources should project. And the staff don’t strike me as having a willing and winning attitude. It is all a little tacky, sloppy and divisive. And ultimately that comes out in the results on the pitch.
But luckily for us Motsepe will surely be around to try again next year. He has been a lively addition to the South African football scene, especially the way he has waved his cash in the face of the other envious football bosses. It is going to be an interesting off-season as he sets out again to try and win the title. How much is he going to part with this time round?Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.
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