Pitso's Sundowns revolution not merely case of big budget
Since joining Mamelodi Sundowns nearly six years ago, Pitso Mosimane has made success so effortless that it becomes easy to overlook the hard work he has put in to reach this point.
Such has been the seamlessness of Mosimane's regime that others, disingenuously and for reasons perhaps known only to them, have sought to apportion its overwhelming success merely to a generous budget, as if such a budget didn't exist before he took over the Sundowns reins in December 2012.
But those with longer memories will recall that before Mosimane arrived at Chloorkop, he found a disillusioned team who had gone four seasons without a trophy. Patrice Motsepe had sacked a succession of coaches, hired at a high cost and paid generous exit packages. These coaches - 13 to be exact - delivered a mere four trophies (two leagues, one MTN8 and one Nedbank Cup) between 2003 and 2012.
Mosimane found Sundowns 15th on the log in 2012/13. A few victories saw them move up the table but they missed out on a top-eight spot as they finished 10th, a distant 18 points behind champions Kaizer Chiefs.
Since then, Sundowns have won the league three times and finished second twice. They have also had the busiest schedule in the league, having to traverse the continent in clinching the CAF Champions League in 2016, and participated in the Club World Cup that year.
Sundowns lost important players in the process. As Mosimane mentioned when we had a long chat with him last week, it has not always been easy to replace them.
Bongani Zungu was the first key man to leave in 2016, and his place was taken by Tiyani Mabunda.
Keagan Dolly and Teko Modise followed soon thereafter and Themba Zwane emerged. Sibusiso Vilakazi and Percy Tau worked their way to become regulars, while Thapelo Morena replaced Ramahlwe Mphahlele.
Of course, money was spent on these players but integrating them into the Sundowns system takes some doing. Previously, money in the Motsepe era was thrown at everyone during every transfer window, without thinking behind it. Mosimane has astutely changed that. The budget is there, but if there's no need to spend, it won't be spent.
What's even more fearsome about Sundowns' dominance under Mosimane is that he still hasn't integrated the players he recently signed: Aubrey Ngoma, Katlego Otladisa, Rivaldo Coetzee and now Toni Silva are some new faces that could ensure the Brazilians occupy the top spot in the Premiership for some time.
Most importantly, Mosimane feels he still has more to achieve on a personal level, despite delivering seven trophies in five full seasons.
It will take some doing to stop his juggernaut because finally, in him, Sundowns found a brainy coach who has passion and genuine ambition, not merely one looking for a quick buck and a hefty payout. This is why his detractors - who claimed when he won his first title that he was just "lucky" - will stop at nothing to denigrate his success. That won't pass.
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