Itumeleng Khune looks to still be in limbo at Kaizer Chiefs, and might not see much game time until the end of the season. Stuart Baxter looks dead set on playing Brilliant Khuzwayo despite Khune being back to full fitness. I have often said that Khune is the best goalkeeper we have in the country, and he simply cannot be kept on the bench. I know Khuzwayo has done well since he stepped in for an injured Khune, but when a player of Itu’s calibre gains full fitness, he should play no matter what.
Chiefs fans might not like this, but I think if this continues, Itumeleng Khune must leave Amakhosi to seek employment elsewhere. He needs a team that is going to appreciate him and give him first preference when it comes to team selection. There’s often been talk of him being arrogant and thinking too much of himself, but the truth is all talented people are like that. Cocky people make it in their respective fields because they know they have to stay at the top of their game. But also I think we need to separate issues. The fact that Khune “feels” himself has nothing to do with his performances on the field of play. Fact is, he is the best.
The fact that coach Shakes Mashaba used three goalkeepers at AFCON is proof positive that we needed Khune between the sticks. All three keepers showed why they would ordinarily not be in the starting lineup with Itu there. It was a crisis out there and I did call it in my piece after the squad was announced. There was a lot of talk about him leaving Chiefs during the recent transfer window, but nothing came out of it. Many thought he’s just being a baby and can’t handle a little competition. Well if you’re that good, and you are being kept on the bench for someone who is less talented than you (with due respect to Khuzwayo), then you’re allowed to sulk.
Khune gives the team a lot more than any other keeper. His positioning is good, has improved in the air since his younger days, a brilliant shot stopper, and his distribution comes second to none. One other thing that I’ve noticed about him is that he has been more comfortable with coming out of his goal to play sweeper, just like German goalkeeper Manuel Nauer does. This is a complete keeper who we cannot afford to allow to rot on the bench. If it means he has to part ways with the only club he has ever known, then so be it. This is a matter of national concern. At 27, Itu still has a lot of years left in him for Bafana Bafana, and his experience of having played over 60 games for the national team is invaluable. How does Baxter get it right to start Khune only in cup matches? It’s the same thing that Real Madrid tried to do when they decided Iker Casillas would play in cup matches and Diego Lopez in La Liga. It did not work. If you have a better player on the bench, he must play. I know Orlando Pirates have signed Siyabonga Mpontshane from Platinum Stars, but there is no doubt that should the ‘Iron Duke’ decide to lure Khune to Parktown, he would be a guaranteed starter. Sundowns was also said to be interested in the keeper’s services, and we know they certainly have the funds to capture both Oupa Manyisa (who by the way I don’t think should leave Pirates) and Khune. Word in the corridors is that the reason he’s not playing is that he has not signed a new contract at the club, but how do you commit to a club that hasn’t committed to you?
Khune is not a player on trial, he shouldn’t be “waiting for his chance”. He’s a senior player. He got injured in their Nedbank Cup clash against Edu Sport, but according to him, all is well and there’s no serious damage, so there’s no excuse. Another thing is that this all works to Chiefs’ disadvantage because should he not sign a new deal in the next four months or so, he will be a free agent, meaning they will not make any profit out of him. I think the club is going about this the wrong way and should not go around making statements like “Chiefs made Khune who he is”, expecting him to just sign based on sentiment. Just over ten years ago, something happened that the Chiefs faithful never thought would ever happen, Brian Baloyi left the club having played for them from the junior ranks. If this bloke does not get game time in the league sometime soon, I suspect they might just have a sense of deja vu.