COMMENT: Itumeleng Khune may be SA's No.1 but Sundowns' Denis Onyango is Africa's No.1

Mamelodi Sundowns v Orlando Pirates, Denis Onyango
The battle between Khune and the Masandawana No.1 has long brought about much debate, but after Onyango's latest accolade can their be any detractors?

Mamelodi Sundowns and Uganda international Denis Onyango was recently voted into the Africa XI for 2018.

This is no mean feat considering that he is the only Premier Soccer League (PSL) and African based player to be named on the list.

Onyango finds himself in the company of esteemed players such as Liverpool FC duo Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Arsenal star Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.

But while this was Onyango’s second continental achievement after he was named the Caf Africa based Player of the Year in 2016, a now-defunct award, there were still those who questioned that a certain Itumeleng Khune was a better goalkeeper and the best in the league.

Itumeleng Khune v Denis Onyango PS

While Khune is undoubtedly a top-level keeper, the 31-year-old has never really achieved great things at the highest level. With so much promise, Khune never really lived up to expectations while Onyango is not only a national team hero, he has received individual and team success.

A Caf Champions League, Caf Super Cup, Premier Soccer League winner and has steered his team to a long-awaited Africa Cup of Nations, Onyango has certainly solidified his position as one of the greats.  

Onyango’s exploits have shown that he is able to deliver when it counts and although both players are currently nursing injuries, it is the Ugandan star that has the better record.

Onyango has conceded just three goals in eight league appearances and yes, Sundowns’ defence has not been as frail, but it is Onyango that brings about an air of calm to his fellow defenders. This is the success that Reyaad Pieterse has not enjoyed and Kennedy Mweene has had to some extent.

Khune, on the other hand, has conceded 11 goals in his 13 league appearances. This does not mean that Khune is a better keeper but rather that there have been frailties at the back, after all, a goalkeeper is only as good as the defence in front of him.

Itumeleng Khune Willard Katsande Mario Booysen Siyabonga Ngezana of Kaizer Chiefs September 2018

However, when doing a comparison, it’s always important to look at the characteristics of each keeper. Khune is more of the flamboyant shot-stopper, who is known for his spectacular saves, but while this is easy on the eye, it is not always the most effective.

This though does perhaps make up for Khune’s lack of height which leaves him vulnerable under the high ball. This is something that Onyango has no such problem.

In spite of his big frame, he is agile enough to get down to the ground quickly to make a save, but his reading of the game is what has made the biggest impact.

Onyango is a commander of the six-yard box, and no defender dare move forward into the box without being destroyed by Onyango.

Mamelodi Sundowns, Denis Onyango against St George

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This is his biggest strength, and while he doesn’t necessarily possess the ball-playing ability and distribution of Khune, he has been immense especially in Africa where physicality is key.

 So, while many may argue that Onyango has overtaken Khune as the premier goalkeeper in SA, there is a counter-argument to be made, that Onyango was never behind him.

A player’s success can only be decided by trophies and success, and Onyango definitely has plenty of that to boast about in his locker.