South Africa’s most capped international Aaron Mokoena has been told he cannot leave financially-challenged English championship Portsmouth.
Mokoena – who elicits the roar of “Axe” whenever he touches the ball at Fratton Park – has seen his career fall apart since his brave FA Cup final display against Chelsea in May last year.
Pompey were relegated from the Premier League after a points deduction for going in to administration just before Mokoena led the host nation through their World Cup campaign. Despite their troubles Portsmouth avoided relegation from the Championship last season but Mokoena, still only 30, found himself banished to the bench – and dropped by Bafana Bafana manager Pitso Mosimane despite his record 104 caps.
On Monday, his agent Dietmar Wendorff rocked Pompey supporters – perhaps the only British fans to understand the meaning of “Mbazo” – by saying: “Like any player, Aaron is not happy sitting on the bench because he wants to play. I know the basic transfer fee for Aaron and we will start negotiating at £1million."
But boss Cotterill, who has just 10 first team players signed up for next season due to Portsmouth’s financial problems, told the local newspaper yesterday: ““I’m not sure we would let anyone leave at this moment in time. That is purely down to our lack of numbers.
“Somebody rang me up and told me Aaron wanted to leave but I have not heard anything about that, certainly I have not heard anything from him. Then his advisor has come out and denied that he wants to leave.”
Wendorff claims he has had interest from Qatar, Russia, Turkey and Dubai for the battler from Boipatong but Cotterill laughed: “They are amazing these agents, I have never even heard of this one.
“I’ve said it before and I will say it again, a lot of these agents decide to do a bit of talking.
“The prime example was the agent of Hermann (Hreidarsson) earlier last season and then when I asked Hermann about it, he said he didn’t know anything about it.
“I am pretty sure if I bothered to ask that question to Aaron he would probably give the same answer.
“I don’t actually know what is going on with that. One thing for sure, though, if anybody wants to leave we are not pinning them down to stay here – but I haven’t had anybody coming up to me to say they want to leave.
“There will be a change around here. There has been a big change around after a year and probably after two years there will be a bigger change around. We can’t afford to let somebody go – unless they want to pay a decent fee.”
Mokoena found Ricardo Rocha picked ahead of him after injury problems midway through last season and Portsmouth have now signed Jason Pearce, another central defender from neighbours Bournemouth. Cotterill may also bring Greg Halford back from his impressive loan spell at Premier League club Wolves if the clubs fail to agree a price for the central defender.
This story appeared on the back page of The Star in Johannesburg this morning, www.thestar.co.za.