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Philani Zulu: What does the future hold for the Kaizer Chiefs winger?

21:10 IST 01/09/2019
Philani Zulu of Kaizer Chiefs September 2018
Zulu is a forgotten man at Amakhosi despite a record of three goals in 19 matches last term

Kaizer Chiefs utility player Philani Zulu appears to have fallen down the pecking order under coach Ernst Middendorp. 

Zulu hasn't featured for Amakhosi so far this season.

In fact, he missed the final two league matches of the previous campaign and made the bench for the Nedbank Cup final against TS Galaxy without getting a run.  

With the transfer window closing in on Monday, it remains to be seen if he still forms part of the coach's plans going forward. 

So, what does the future hold for the former Maritzburg United player at Naturena? 

The 26-year-old earned the plaudits from Middendorp soon after returning from injury in February this year and even made nine consecutive league appearances under Middendorp before missing out on a place in the team in the final matches of the campaign. 

Zulu was expected to feature heavily for Amakhosi this season, more so because the team looked very thin on the left-hand side with Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya the only player holding it down at left-back position.   

Happy Mashiane's long injury lay-off was supposed to open doors for Zulu, but Middendorp continued to overlook him. 

Admittedly, Zulu's form has been patchy since joining the Soweto giants, but that's because he was often played out of position when the club needed experience at the left-back position. 

However, he proved just why he is an asset to the club last season when Giovanni Solinas and Middendorp played him in his natural position - the left-wing position. 

He shone in that position, scored three goals, provided a single assist in 19 league appearances for the Glamour Boys. 

As things stand, Middendorp favours Khama Billiat and Lazarous Kambole in that role with Ntiya-Ntiya playing just behind either of the two attackers.

This leaves no room for Zulu unless he returns to the left-back position should Chiefs decide to hold on to him this season. 

But with Middendorp having raved about Mashiane in the past, it's possible the young player would overtake Zulu and walk straight into the Chiefs starting line-up upon his return.    

Is Zulu happy at Chiefs? 

It is very difficult to conclude if Zulu is happy at Chiefs given his lack of game time but he was very excited when he first joined the club after being frozen out at Maritzburg United two seasons ago. 

But like any other player, the pain of not playing regularly at any club is unbearable, and this is what Zulu is going through under Middendorp. 

Whether or not he is thinking about his future away from Chiefs is a topic for another day, but he certainly would like to return to the setup and play as many matches as possible for the club. 

The next few hours will be very crucial in determining whether or not Zulu still has a future at the club because even Middendorp hasn't made mention of his lack of game time.  

For a player that sacrificed so much to play for Chiefs, this period could be frustrating but if Zulu remains at the club after Monday night then he would have to up his game to avoid warming the bench for months to come.