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COMMENT: What's next for Thabo Matlaba after Orlando Pirates exit?

12:13 AM MYT 24/06/2019
Thabo Matlaba, Orlando Pirates, September 2018
Goal examines the former Bucs captain's potential next moves after his seven-and-a-half year spell with the PSL giants comes to an end

On Friday, Orlando Pirates confirmed that one of their longest serving players would not be retained ahead of the 2019/20 campaign, and Thabo Matlaba's seven-and-a-half year spell with the Soweto giants will officially come to end at the end of this month when his contract expires.

The experienced player leaves the Buccaneers as a club legend, having played an important role in bringing success to the Houghton-based side.

Nicknamed 'Festival', Matlaba helped Bucs clinch both the Premier Soccer League trophy and the Nedbank Cup, while he was also part of the team that reached the Caf Champions League final in 2013, scoring a 95th-minute equaliser against Al-Ahly in the first leg.

Matlaba was announced as the new Bucs captain prior to the start of the 2017/18 season, but he fell out of favour under Milutin Sredojevic during the same campaign.

Bucs tried to offload Matlaba to Chippa United at the beginning of last season as Micho revamped his squad, but the former M Tigers player refused to move to the Chilli Boys as he wanted to stay and fight for his place in the Pirates starting line-up.

The decision proved futile, as Matlaba made only seven appearances in the league last term, and the club decided not to extend his contract.

At the age of 31, Matlaba still has a lot to offer despite having become a forgotten man in his final term with the Buccaneers.

The full-back, who is armed with international experience having represented South Africa at two Africa Cup of Nations finals, still has the engine to power his ageing legs.

His versatility is also a big plus as he has the ability to operate on either flank and do the job in midfield efficiently.

Furthermore, Matlaba is able to use his substantial experience to remain in the elite league, and his leadership qualities could also make him a good asset to guide youngsters.

The hard-working player will not be short of admirers following Bucs' decision not to retain his services, as he has been linked with several PSL clubs.

One team that has been consistently linked with Festival is Pirates' arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs, who are expected to reinforce their defence during the upcoming July-August transfer window.

It remains to be seen whether or not Matlaba will join a list of high-profile names who have moved between the two biggest clubs in the country, or move to a smaller PSL club where he will be able to enjoy the twilight of his career without any crushing weight of expectation which comes with playing for a club like Chiefs.