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PATRICE Motsepe has gone soft, according to some officials at Mamelodi Sundowns who believe if the club president was his trigger-happy old self, coach Johan Neeskens would have been sacked long ago.
Motsepe could yet give Neeskens the boot, but the fact that the Dutchman is still at Sundowns after a string of poor results, when his predecessors were usually shown the door after such a bad patch, supports statements coming from the club's insiders.
Sundowns are bottom of the log for the second week running after 10 Absa Premiership games - suffering six defeats to make this their worst-ever start to a season.
If the last few weeks of the previous campaign are taken into consideration, Sundowns have tasted victory just once in 16 league matches under Neeskens.
A 1-1 draw against city rivals AmaTuks in the Tshwane derby on Saturday afternoon added to Neeskens' woes and demotivated the team further.
None of the previous coaches were ever afforded this much leeway to make amends. Paul Dolezar, Angel Cappa, Trott Moloto and Henri Michel did not last beyond five months while they were in charge.
Interim coaches Miguel Gamondi and Neil Tovey, even after winning the Premier League, were replaced months into the next season. Gordon Igesund stepped in, managed to defend the league title, but was fired when the going got tough.
Hristo Stoichkov and Antonio Lopez Habas resigned but Motsepe has often maintained that he would have kept them if they had not "volunteered" to leave.
Officials suggested that it was the investment the billionaire owner has made in Neeskens when he hired him at the start of last season that keeps him. Part of the coach's five-year contract is tied into improving the Downs' youth academy using the Johan Cruyff - the Dutch legend famous for total football - method. And that is costing the club millions, an insider said.
Should Neeskens be fired, Motsepe would have to pay out a lump sum to cover the remaining four years of his contract.