Middendorp likely to stay

2013-05-29 00:00

HAVING already lost striker Cuthbert Malajila to Mamelodi Sundowns, Maritzburg United have given their fans something to look forward to next season with the news that Ghanaian centre back Mohamed Awal is not for sale. Not yet, anyway.

Awal arrived at United at the start of last season from Ghanaian Premier League outfit Asante Kotoko SC, where he established himself as the standout central defender in that league.

After taking to the PSL like a duck to water, the 25-year-old quickly caught the attention of his peers with a string of strong performances, as United solidified their position among the top sides in the league.

By the PSL’s halfway stage, Awal had done enough to earn a call up to the Ghanaian national side for the 2013 African Cup of Nations, and when Orlando Pirates were reported to be interested in securing his services, Awals’s United future appeared uncertain.

But club chairman Farouk Kadodia told The Witness yesterday that while he has had offers for the player, none have come close to matching what he considers to be reasonable.

“There is no ways that we would consider an offer of, say, R2 million when we paid R2,5 million for him,” said Kadodia.

“We want to get the most out of him. We have had him for just one season and we haven’t received any formal offers that we have considered.”

While the Malajila deal is all but done, there are still a few legalities that the clubs are in the process of ironing out, and Kadodia said he could not confirm the value of the transfer.

“That is something that both clubs have agreed not to disclose, and we will honour that agreement,” said the chairman.

While finding a replacement for Malajila, the club’s top scorer this season, is certainly United’s priority heading into the next campaign, they do at least have the signatures of Ajax Cape Town striker Nhlanhla Vilakazi and Tuks striker Thokozani Sekotlong to boost the attacking department.

But despite it looking more likely that Awal will remain a United player next season, Kadodia confirmed that he would be looking to bulk up his central defence in the transfer window.

Other notable negotiations include that of central midfielder Michael Morton. United have exercised their option to extend Morton’s contract by another year, but Kadodia confirmed that they would try to tempt the former Pirates and Wits man to sign a longer deal before the start of the new season.

But perhaps the most important contract negotiation on the chairman’s desk at present is that of coach Ernst Middendorp, who is currently holidaying in New Zealand. Kadodia is confident that Middendorp is his man and that a deal will be struck when he returns to South Africa.

“From my side, everything is fine and we want him to stay on. We are very happy with the work he has done,” said Kadodia.

“But the football world is a strange one, and in such a volatile market there is always the concern that there will be other clubs that could offer him a job.”

But Middendorp appears unable to leave United, and his love affair with the club was never more apparent than it was this season, when he formed an almost entirely new squad of players.

His and the team’s performances last season have left a sense of optimism surrounding Harry Gwala, and if United are to continue their movement up the PSL ladder, then Middendorp is surely the man to be at the helm.

“I think that he [Middendorp] wants to carry on with what he has started here, and he doesn’t want to let go of all of the good work that he has done,” said Kadodia.

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