Kaizer Chiefs' pending Fifa transfer ban may not necessarily be a bad thing. In fact, it could prove to be their trump card as the Soweto giants look to end a half-decade wait for silverware.
That's assuming that the ban on Amakhosi making any new acquisitions for one more transfer window is upheld and that the club is not successful in their pending appeal. The issue stems back to when Chiefs brought Andriamirado ‘Dax’ Andrianarimanana from Madagascar.
This is indeed the approach incoming coach Gavin Hunt is adopting:
"I just work on the basis that it [the appeal] is not opening up‚ let’s just work with what we’ve got and try and make that better and harder to beat‚ and win games as well," he told the media this week.
With Bidvest Wits no longer around, its only really SuperSport United and possibly Cape Town City who appear likely contenders to challenge for the top three, and it's debatable whether either of those clubs has strengthened sufficiently ahead of the new league season.
The Covid-19 factor is also expected to hit the 'smaller' clubs - those without the sponsorship backing of the big three - even harder.
It's difficult not to see it being a slug-out between the historical giants of South African football, all of whom carry significant fire-power and squad depth.
The Brazilians, who start life without legendary head coach Pitso Mosimane, have a new technical team set-up and have also delved heavily into the transfer market, bringing in the likes of Khuliso Mudau (Black Leopards), Kermit Erasmus (Cape Town City), Aubrey Modiba (SuperSport United), Jody February (Cape Umoya United), Grant Magerman (Ajax Cape Town), George Maluleka (Kaizer Chiefs), Ricardo Goss, Gift Motupa and Haashim Domingo (all Bidvest Wits), Luvuyo Phewa (Real Kings), Lesedi Kapinga (Black Leopards), Peter Shalulile and Mothobi Mvala (both Highlands Park).
The issue and challenge of a bloated squad were recently alluded to by former Sundowns midfielder Roger Feutmba.
Pirates too have signed a bunch of new players, including Richard Ofori (Maritzburg United), Wayde Jooste (Highlands Park), Thabang Monare, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Deon Hotto, Terrence Dzvukamanja (all Bidvest Wits) and Collins Makgaka (Baroka FC). And this is after they signed around 10 players the previous season.
The problem Pirates and Sundowns both could potentially face is in finding the right combinations and producing the kind of consistently fluent football which wins games. It's not only finding the right playing systems but its also about personalities and egos; it's getting that balance right which can take time and be the most challenging.
Chiefs on the other hand, should they not win their appeal against the transfer ban, won't have any such problems as the bulk of their players will have been together for a minimum of two seasons and in many cases much longer.
That should effectively make Hunt's job a slightly simpler one. Hunt will have seen how close Chiefs came to winning the title last season, and will know that if he can just fine-tune things a bit, he could well add to the four league titles won in his managerial career.
A look at the Chiefs squad shows there is plenty of depth and a lot of options for Hunt to work with. Already the former SuperSport and Bidvest Wits mentor has spoken glowingly of the youngsters in the team. Added to that are a number of experienced internationals. And in terms of firepower, Amakhosi carry plenty of that in the likes of Samir Nurkovic, Leonardo Castro, Lebogang Manyama and Dumisani Zuma.
And considering Khama Billiat's rather poor showing last season by his own high standards, it would almost be like having a new player if Hunt can get the best out of the Zimbabwean.
With a quality squad at his disposal, Hunt's main challenge is more likely to be to find a way to galvanise his men to get over the disappointment of losing the league title to Sundowns on the final day of last season.
A gutsy come-from-behind 2-1 win in the MTN8 against Maritzburg United last weekend suggested he is on the way to achieving that.
That resolve will now be tested even more severely when the Glamour Boys get their league campaign up and running with Saturday afternoon's showdown against none other than last season's nemesis, Sundowns.
That game kicks off at 15:30 at the FNB Stadium