Sunday, 22 January 2017

DOLLY GOOD SHOW! Keagan finally jets off, let's hope it was worth the fuss

COULD the Keagan Dolly saga really be over? Can we stop talking about buy-out clauses and Dispute Resolution Chambers? Can we finally focus on these strange swap deals involving Chippa United?

It appears to be so. Nobody move. Anything could yet happen. But in the wee hours of Sunday morning, French Ligue 1 club Montpellier, a modest 13th out of 20 on the latest table, announced the 23-year-old South Africa would sign for 1.7m Euros on a four year deal. That’s about R24.8m. Not bad for a lad bought from R6m from Ajax Cape Town three years ago.

Tokelo Rantie moved from Malmo to Bournemouth for the same fee of around £1.5m in 2013, but no South African club was involved. Same applies to Benni McCarthy. It’s a South African record, though with transfer fees more secretive than the President’s underpants, who really knows?

Since Dolly’s move to Mamelodi Sundowns in 2014, after spending a season on loan at his old club, Dolly has won the PSL title, the Nedbank Cup, the Telkom KO and the MTN8 before, as we all know, helping Masandawana to the African Champions League triumph three months ago.

Dolly’s name appeared in the CAF Best of Africa XI at the GLO awards to put the cap on a fantastic season for club and player, even Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi could only make the bench. 

But the end of his Sundowns career was blighted by a life-or-death struggle with Dolly’s agency, Siyavuma. Their boss, the no-nonsense pint-sized Yorkshireman Paul Mitchell actually employs Dolly’s dad Ramon, who was wheeled out on national radio to fight the good fight.

He’s a tough negotiator Mitchell, and he can burn the ears off any football journalist in the country when he feels he has been wronged. Again and again he told me: “Keagan’s done it all in South Africa, it’s time for him to move.” Curiously Sundowns chairman Patrice Motsepe was saying roughly the same thing at the same time.

When Sundowns successfully went to the PSL’s DRC to restore Dolly’s buy-out clause from 733,000 Euros (on his current signed contract in 2015) to £1.5m (the amount on his original contract in 2014), Mitchell went bonkers.

With Sundowns allowed to double the original bids offered last year by Greek giants Olympiakos and Montpellier, Mitchell could see his golden goose being slowly cooked as Manchester City’s City Group appeared to be keen on moving Dolly to their sister club New York City in the American MLS.

Mitchell was having none of it. The warm-afterglow of Sundowns’ African conquest quickly cooled as Mitchell and Sundowns officials went to war; serious threats and organised media campaigns followed. Mitchell claims he was threatened with jail for perjury, Sundowns claimed dodgy dealings were at play.

But in truth, what was the point? Dolly cost £1.5m at a time when Chinese clubs are offering ridiculous amounts for players coming to the end of their careers. It would barely buy you Olivier Giroud’s beard or Joe Hart’s gloves.

The deal was always on, the buy-out clause was a mere detail. It’s a bargain in current terms. Dolly said farewell to his Sundowns team-mates this week amid photogenic smiles as they returned to training over the ridiculously long Christmas break.

But it’s hard to leave with a grin when your club somehow managed to alter a signed contract, when your agent and your dad are forced to issue apologies.

Mitchell issued a statement as the deal approached closure, saying: “For Keagan to follow his dream of playing in Europe and to fly the South African flag high will be a dream come true.”

Let’s hope that’s true. The agent’s dreams have certainly come true. And Sundowns have made a 400 percent profit in three seasons.

But Dolly’s dreams? Let’s hope he doesn’t get Lost in France. Kermit Erasmus, a man with far more experience in Europe and South Africa, has just been loaned out by Rennes to Lens. It’s tough out there.

Montpellier may have seen some great names come through their ranks, but they are not giants of the French game right now. They last won a trophy in 2012.

Let’s hope we finally see a young South African explode in to the English Premier League or La Liga, or even Series A. We don’t have any at the moment. Dolly has the talent, but Bongani Khumalo can tell him how hard it is to move 5,000 miles and train in the frost for various coaches who don’t really know you.

Still, Dolly’s Wikipedia entry now states quite clearly: “Keagan Larenzo Dolly is a South African football player who plays as a midfielder for Montpellier in the League 1.” I’d love to know who edited that before he’s even played a game.

On Friday, local football media said Dolly had already had a medical in France. Before he'd left OR Tambo. There could yet be a twist in this sorry tale.

All the best Keagan, may the force be with you. Best avoid any future Star Wars.

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