JOHANNESBURG, December 22 (ANA) – Having graced some of Europe’s biggest stadiums and played against many of the world’s best, a lot more was expected on Steven Pienaar’s return to the PSL.
The former Ajax Amsterdam, Borussia Dortmund, Everton and Sunderland playmaker was signed by Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt ahead of the 2017/18 season.
But like the Students’ other big signing from Europe, Bafana Bafana playmaker Daylon Claasen, ‘Schilo’s’ impact has been minimal. Especially for a player rumoured to be on one of the top salaries in the league.
A reported figure of R5 million per annum may have been an exaggeration, but it’s likely safe to say he will be several million rands richer if he sees out his contract.
The veteran midfielder has started in only three league matches for the Clever Boys, none of which he completed, and come on as a substitute in another three. There have also been a couple of cup showings.
In total he has had 463 minutes of playing time, out of a maximum possible total of roughly 1800 minutes. And he’s yet to score and has often looked sluggish and off the pace.
Hunt, however, refused to criticise the player when asked about Pienaar’s lack of impact earlier this month.
“I can’t comment about players in the press, they are still fitting in. The league is tough, it’s a hard-running league and a pacey league, that’s the difference. Anybody that comes from anywhere is always going to struggle, even [Amr] Gamal he is struggling,” he said of Wits’ top scorer this season with five goals, ” he said.
Hunt has a point about the PSL’s pace – visitors to this country and newly-arrived coaches often comment on that.
Pienaar though came from England’s Premier League, one of the most physically-demanding in the world. However, if one looks at his stats for his last three seasons, it’s perhaps not surprising that the one-time Ajax Cape Town man is not fully fit and firing on all cylinders.
In the 2016/17 season, he at least managed 15 league matches (10 starts) for Sunderland. But two previous injury-hit seasons with Everton prior to that yielded just 13 league appearances and only three starts.
He turns 36 in March, and with the number of injuries he’s had in his career, is unlikely to have much more gas in the tank.
Pienaar may just go on to bounce back in 2018 – he is, after all, a player of immense quality and possibly Bafana Bafana’s finest midfielder of the last 15 years.
But there has been unconfirmed speculation that he could be sold in January. That would mean Hunt and the Clever Boys brains trust have made a very costly error of judgment.
It would also mean that if Pienaar does move on (he had initially appeared set on joining Orlando Pirates before signing for Wits), he would be a far less appetising commodity and would not be able to command such a high wage. – African News Agency (ANA)