Cape Town City recently confirmed their third signing of the January transfer window, roping in a relative unknown player to South African football Bradley ‘Surprise’ Ralani.
The attacker who plays predominantly on the left side of the midfield enters the South African fray at the ripe age of 30 and will be expected to take over the mantle from playmaker Aubrey Ngoma who departed for Mamelodi Sundowns, posing the question, just what the Kimberly born midfielder has to offer the Premier Soccer League (PSL)?
While Ralani may not have any previous PSL experience to look back on, what he does bring with him is loads of European experience. The Stars of Africa graduate spent close to a decade in Scandinavia, where he has thrived, playing for clubs in Sweden and Denmark.
Ralani who is affectionately known as ‘Surprise’ due to his exciting and unpredictable playing style was most recently released by Swedish Superettan (second division) side Helsingborg after he returned to the club for yet another stint as he looked to help them avoid the drop, but following The Pride of Scania’s relegation and their failed attempt at returning to the Swedish top-flight where they finished in seventh position on the table, Ralani was subsequently released paving the way for his next career move.
Nonetheless, after nine years in Europe, Ralani finally looked to return to his native homeland and subsequently impressed the Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy as he endured a month-long trial at the Mother City-based outfit.
An intriguing fact for Ralani is that with his move to City now confirmed, this will not be the first time he will have the opportunity to play under a legend of the beautiful game and a Uefa Champions League winner.
At Helsingborg, Ralani found himself under the mentorship of Swedish legend Henrik Larsson, someone who according to his former youth coach Farouk Khan took a liking to him.
“Larsson loved him because he is such a skillful player,” Khan told The Sowetan.
“He was one of those players who slipped through the net,” Khan added.
According to the Stars of Africa Academy head honcho who discovered Ralani and was instrumental in sending him to Europe, Ralani was actually rejected by Kaizer Chiefs as a youth.
"He was at Kaizer Chiefs but they didn’t want him eventually and we sent him to Sweden instead,” Khan said.
"He only came to us at the age of 18 and we needed a while to work on him before he moved on.
“In Kimberley‚ they called him ‘Surprise’ because he was always coming up with something different,” Khan explained.
"They say he used to pack out the stadiums there.
"I think he was unlucky not to be noticed earlier,” he expressed.
"Maybe the coaches before felt he was not physically strong enough‚ but he is a quality player‚” he concluded.
Although, Ralani has made a name for himself in Scandinavia having banged home the goals on a regular basis, the jury will be out to see how he adapts to rigours of the South African game. Cynically speaking, the Swedish and Danish leagues are not necessarily leagues of the highest quality and standing and that would explain why Ralani was also overlooked for national selection.
Meanwhile, City fans will know from their experience with Ayanda Patosi not to expect too much too soon from Ralani as European-based players tend to struggle to adapt to the pace of the local game. The 25-year-old in particular spent years in Belgium’s topflight before returning to South Africa and has the ability to turn a game on its head, but is yet to show that same talent which saw him rise up the Belgium ranks as one of the league’s brightest prospects.
Nevertheless, Ralani will hope to revive the form which saw him bag 17 goals and 17 assists in 110 appearances for Swedish second division club Landskrona BoIS in what was one of Ralani’s most impressive stints to date. If Ralani can provide such a return or even better his six goals in 27 appearances for Helsingborg which he contributed in his final season at the club, then he will certainly be a fan favourite at the ambitious City, and who knows perhaps he might finally crack the national team nod as well.