At last it’s over. Even by the standards of AjaxCT this has been a particularly traumatic transfer window. The soap operas running in the football media regarding Rivaldo Coetzee and Travis Graham have been particularly draining. At least one of them is now finally resolved.
After all the negotiations, strikes, gossip, more strikes, making up, transfer announcements and one farewell appearance, Rivaldo finally ended up in the one place nobody at the club wanted him to go. Ari Efstathiou’s words to the press after the transfer to Glasgow Celtic was announced now look a little chastening. However, the general gist of what he said, with regard to some of the academy’s products being too good to remain in South Africa are true, and surely Rivaldo falls into that category. With a five-year contract at Mamelodi Sundowns to honour he will now inevitably become a successful and wealthy footballer, but let’s hope that he has a crystal-clear release clause in place just in case the Europeans come knocking again.
The events of the past week have been difficult to understand for fans looking in from the outside. It has to be said that we have absolutely no right to know the fine details of Rivaldo’s medical. This is a private matter. However, the information that has been released into the public domain and the behaviour of the clubs involved has left many fans bewildered. Soccer Laduma first broke the news that the medical revealed that Rivaldo had a broken foot. This was later described, more seriously, as an “underlying problem” by AjaxCT. It is now being reported to be not as serious as first thought and it seems he will miss as little as six weeks of football.
When the signing by Celtic was first announced Brendon Rogers was asked if Rivaldo would be a first choice starter. His reply was: “It’s not just for the now, it’s for the longer term.” Rivaldo’s agent has explained the move to Sundowns by saying they were prepared to give him time to heal, while Celtic wanted to play him straight away. That does not seem to be the case from Rogers statement. It is true that Celtic do have a number of injuries to defenders right now, but Rodgers has stated that they did not need to sign a defender urgently. After Rivaldo’s medical, Celtic did not rush out and immediately sign another defender to go immediately into their team – not even a short term loan. Hardly the actions of a club that were desperate to sign a defender to go straight into the starting eleven. Even if they did need a defender to go straight into the side, would they really sign someone that has only played 50 mins of football in the past five months and missed virtually the entire pre-season? It looks like they were considering him for the long term, but would a team of the stature and professionalism of Celtic spend time tracking a player they want for the future, negotiate a deal and then pull out because he has an injury that will clear in six weeks?
For the fans, there are more questions than answers. They may only be revealed the next time he has an opportunity to move overseas and there is another medical to negotiate. It is fair to say that most of us really wanted to see Rivaldo prosper and go on to fulfil his potential in Europe, despite the pain he has put the club through in recent weeks. This is why the deal feels so disappointing, rather than the fact that he has gone to a rival in the same league. For the club the money has come in and an experienced defender has also been signed as an added bonus. The fee is of course undisclosed, but is rumoured to be around R10 million, which together with the valuation of Mario Booysen will probably give the club what they had originally hoped for. At the end of the day Sundown’s money is as good as Celtic’s. Everyone knew Rivaldo was going. He has gone. The deal works out well for the club, who roughly got their valuation and now seem to have a large pool of defenders to work with, so let’s move on.
Once the dust settled on the long running Rivaldo saga we were given the confirmation that Leo Thethani and Dean Solomons had joined Ajax Amsterdam. Not a trial – an actual transfer, with four year contracts for each of the 18 year olds. The first thing to say is well done to both of the youngsters. This is a life changing moment and a great credit to the academy in Cape Town. Many of us were looking forward to seeing them integrated into the PSL side in the coming years, but this seems to be a departure from the pattern adopted in recent years whereby Amsterdam monitor young talent as they emerge and make their mark on senior football. Hopefully, this a sign that these two players are truly exceptional talents and not that Amsterdam is no longer trusting of the PSL experience or the development coaching in Cape Town. We are told that this is the start of exciting developments to further enhance the African Academy that will be revealed shortly. It is to be hoped that this will not increasingly involve the removal of local talent into the Eredivisie reserve league that we could be watching develop in the PSL.
Many more words could be written about this particular transfer window. It is probably best to stop now and start to focus on the actual football. In the weeks to come let’s hope there is much more to talk about regarding the nine new players that have come into the squad. And let’s hope it is all much more positive than the recent news has been.