Newsmaker 2011: For better or worse, Benni’s back in town

2011-12-23 10:20

Since returning to South Africa five months ago, Benni McCarthy has hogged the headlines – for all the right and wrong reasons.

The 34-year-old striker’s transfer to Orlando Pirates and his decision to return home – after 14 years of plying his trade in Europe – took many by surprise.

His arrival has lifted the standard of the Absa Premiership because he keeps the opposing defenders on their toes whenever he is on the pitch.

Benni was soon back in the “18 area” when he scored on his debut against Black Leopards despite still being overweight for a professional player.

The 2004 Uefa Champions League winner has shown glimpses of his former self, and his individual brilliance saw him scooping the Telkom Knockout top striker award after helping Pirates to the trophy.

McCarthy has two medals to his name as he also helped Pirates to the MTN8 Cup defence.

But Benni’s few months of excellence were soon overshadowed by his tendency to be a bully on the pitch.

He has already been red-carded and was at the centre of a recent altercation with the Bidvest Wits technical team after the Telkom Knockout final in Durban a fortnight ago.

The former Porto, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United shooter had a heated war of words with Wits coach Roger de Sa and his deputy, Eric Tinkler.

The 34-year-old was being paid by the kilo, Tinkler apparently chirped, and this caused McCarthy to hit the roof.

He was so incensed that he went on a tirade: “For Roger de Sa and Eric Tinkler, former players, to behave like that, I think that should be thrown out the game. That is why they are coaches at Wits and not the Gavin Hunts and Steve Komphelas of this League.

Eric Tinkler thought we were still teammates in the national side. I even forgot that we played together in the national team. He tried to be smart so I had to put him in his place. He is lucky I didn’t slap him!”

McCarthy fired another salvo at the two: “They know what they did. I don’t have to spell it out. If they want to get nasty, I can get very nasty. If you want to compare medals, achievements and money, then I would be glad to join in that conversation because I know I would come out right on top.”

But Benni is a nice guy too. He will splash his R100 000 Telkom award on a big party for his Pirates’ teammates.

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