OPINION: Is Montpellier the right club for Dolly?

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Keagan Dolly is on the verge of achieving his European dream, but is his move to France the real deal?

The Dolly versus Mamelodi Sundowns saga is finally over. Dolly’s move away from Chloorkop is imminent as Montpellier have triggered his 1.7 million Euros buyout clause. The question on everyone’s mind is whether this is the best move for the young playmaker?

The man who hails from Westbury, Johannesburg is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s brightest talents and his exploits have not gone unnoticed. Dolly’s performances have earned him admiration from some of Europe’s foremost clubs. Coming off an exceptional 2016 which saw him not only become an Olympian but a Caf Champions League winner, Dolly’s move seems more than deserved.

Ask any aspiring footballer what they endeavour towards and it will be to play at the highest possible level. However, for many South African footballers in particular, Europe remains a distant dream. Many local footballers were criticised over the years, that they would rather choose to live in comfort back home instead of having to deal with the trials and tribulations of football abroad. 

In the case of Dolly his preferred destination is set to be Montpellier. A club that happens to be in one of the top five leagues in the world. Granted, Montpellier aren’t exactly the most glamourous of clubs and the French Ligue 1 is not the most competitive. Nonetheless, the club from the South of France offers an oasis for Dolly to adapt to European football. This small club may not have the allure of big money like Paris Saint Germain or Monaco, but they boast a rich history. One needs to only scroll through the archives to see the likes of Eric Cantona, Carlos Valderrama and Roger Milla who have all donned the Montpellier jersey. The club are even responsible for the development of former Manchester United defender Laurent Blanc. Montpellier are no strangers to silverware either. Having claimed the French Ligue 1 title in the 2011/2012 season. What made that achievement all the greater is the fact they overcame the mighty PSG, winning the league by three points.

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Montpellier may not be competing for the title recently, considering PSG’s dominance but one can understand Dolly’s decision. Looking back at all the clubs that admired the 23-year-old, only the City group, Olympiakos, Al Ahly and Montpellier truly expressed their interest. A move to the Greek giants Olympiakos could have been an attractive prospect with European football on offer but that ship had sailed when Sundowns rejected the move. The only other club that was still in the race was the City Football Group, parent club of Manchester City.  South African footballers have new problems with receiving British work permits due to our world ranking. Thus, Dolly would have had to settle playing in the MLS or the Australia A-League.

For Dolly a move abroad is not about money but rather fulfilling his potential. That is what makes the next chapter in his career so important. There are numerous examples of footballers whose careers stagnated after going abroad. Siyanda Xulu and Thulani Serero are just a few names who struggled to make the grade in Europe recently. Serero, like Dolly left South Africa’s shores being one of the countries brightest prospects. Despite a relatively good start at Ajax, he never managed to solidify his place in the team. However, the advantage that Dolly has, is that Montpellier look to be anticipating his arrival. The club have sold versatile midfielder Morgan Sanson to Marseille.

So, Dolly’s move to Montpellier from the outside looks like the ideal move. Success in France would be determined by how quickly he adapts to the European lifestyle. If he can overcome these challenges, Dolly can have the same impact as fellow Westbury native, Steven Pienaar.

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