Sundowns within their rights to hold out for best Percy Tau deal
The weekend verbal spar between Mamelodi Sundowns and the representatives of their star striker Percy Tau have revealed the current transfer situation as the player seeks an exit to Europe.
Tau's agent, Mmatsatsi Sefalafala, has accused Sundowns of stalling a move to English Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion, while the club say they are talking to a number of interested parties and are committed to seeing the player in Europe next season.
While there is obvious anxiety on the part of Tau to get a transfer done and not miss out on the opportunity to move, with the facts that have been revealed so far, Sundowns can perhaps be forgiven for their stance.
Sundowns, naturally, want to ensure they get top Dollar for the player -- a regular international who has won the CAF Champions League and is also currently his country's reigning Footballer of the Year.
So for them it is a fine balance between not pricing him out of the market, but also maximising the investment they have made in him.
It is football business; would we expect clubs from South America or the smaller leagues in Europe to sell their players on the cheap just so they can get the opportunity to earn more money and play in a bigger competition? Of course not.
And it was that thought that prompted Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane to utter the "we are not Burundi" line, for which he has received some criticism, but is 100 percent correct.
"Those teams must take us seriously if they need Percy," he said. "We are sitting with requests for Percy and we will have to find a way to replace him if he goes."
The simple fact is that Sundowns both do not want to lose their star player, nor do they need to sell him for for financial reasons, so they need to be enticed to part with their prized asset.
The arrival of Venezuelan forward Jose Ali Meza, for a reported €800 000 (R12.5-million), is likely Tau's replacement, so the club has both covered that base and expect him to leave.
According to Sefalafala, who was quoted by the Sunday Times, Brighton's latest offer on the table -- their third -- is £2.5-million (R45-million), with a five percent sell-on clause.
That is a massive deal in the context of South Africa football, and would make Tau the country's most expensive export after Ajax Cape Town received €2.5-million for Thulani Serero, at the exchange rate of the day worth some R24.5-million.
Sefalafala says that Sundowns are holding out for £4-million (R70-million), and this is what has so far scuppered the switch to Brighton.
Obviously this would blow current records out of the water in terms of transfer fee received by a South Africa team, but in the context of the European market, and in particular the Premier League, this is not a big investment at all.
Brighton spent £58.6-million on players last season; many, like Tau, without previous Premier League experience. It is also the norm that playmakers/strikers tend to command a higher transfer fee than midfielders, defenders and goalkeepers.
The transfer fee asked by Sundowns is, in the greater scheme of things, not over the top, nor is it prohibitive for Brighton to be able to afford.
This is especially so as Sundowns have reportedly asked that they receive £2-million now, and another £2-million ahead of the 2019/20 season, splitting the outlay by the English club.
The risk for Brighton is that Tau has never played in Europe before, let alone the rough and tumble of the Premier League, and they will be wary of whether he can settle on the English south coast.
They may well point to the example of Tokelo Rantie at Bournemouth, and even look back at Mbulelo Mabizela's disastrous move to Tottenham Hotspur earlier this century as evidence that South African players may have ability, but not always the mentality to succeed in England.
The counter evidence to that is, of course, the many who have -- Lucas Radebe, Shaun Bartlett, Mark Fish and Quinton Fortune, who were all valuable assets to their respective clubs.
Sundowns, if their statement on Sunday is to be believed, are also fielding offers from a number of European clubs, so it makes sense for them to work through those rather than committing to the first offer that comes along.
But on the flip side, football moves fast and if Brighton or any other team do not get the answer they are looking for soon, they will likely move on to other targets.