Andile Jali: What does the future hold?

Andile Jali, GOALGOAL
  • Andile Jali & Kermit Erasmus, Mamelodi Sundowns, October 2021Backpagepix

    Brilliant season

    The 2021-22 campaign saw Andile Jali play some of his best football for Mamelodi Sundowns and he was one of their most influential players as the Tshwane giants dominated South African football. Affectionately known as Mhlekazi (Your excellency) or Gattuso due to his aggressiveness and high work rate, the experienced midfielder produced consistent performances which earned him Man of the Match accolades. Mhlekazi also became the first player to win the domestic treble four times in the PSL era.

    The Brazilians completed a domestic treble - clinching the PSL championship, MTN8 title and Nedbank Cup - becoming the second team to win three trophies in a single campaign twice since 1996 after Jali's former club Orlando Pirates. However, Sundowns were unable to make it four trophies in a single season as they were defeated in the Caf Champions League quarter-finals. Nevertheless, the campaign will go down as one of Jali's best-ever seasons as a professional footballer.

  • Richard Mbulu of Baroka challenged by Andile Jali of Mamelodi Sundowns.BackpagePix.

    The story of last season

    Mhlekazi had a slow start to the campaign being used mainly as a substitute - helping Sundowns overcome Kaizer Chiefs in the MTN8 quarter-finals on penalties in August this year after coming off the bench. The month of September saw Jali re-establish himself as a regular in the starting line-up and he never looked back - producing a Man of the Match performance against Lamontville Golden Arrows after being given captain's armband. There were then calls for Jali to be recalled to the Bafana Bafana squad.

    Despite being ignored by Bafana head coach Hugo Broos, the former University of Pretoria player continued to dish out eye-catching performances and he helped Masandawana clinch the MTN8 title in October 2021 as one of the top performers in the tournament. Even though Sundowns ended the year 2021 on a bad note, losing to AmaZulu and drawing with Marumo Gallants, Jali continued to produce consistent displays and he was named PSL Player of the Month for December 2021.

    The former KV Oostende star also shone in the Champions League with Sundowns winning five of their six matches in the group stage. The Brazilians were in great form and they could even afford to rest Jali in the Nedbank Cup when they faced lower division clubs. He remained a permanent fixture in the starting line-up as the team won matches consistently in the PSL and they clinched the domestic league title in April with four matches to spare, a week after being disappointedly eliminated from the Champions League by Petro de Luanda of Angola.

    Jali then picked up the Man of the Match award after helping the Tshwane giants defeat Royal AM 2-1 in the Nedbank Cup semi-finals and the team went on to win the tournament to complete a domestic treble. Gattuso was then nominated for the PSL Footballer of the Year, PSL Player's Player of the Season, PSL Midfielder of the Season, MTN8 Last Man Standing and Nedbank Player of the Tournament awards. Jali was one of the big winners at the 2021-22 PSL Awards - walking away with the PSL Midfielder of the Season, MTN8 Last Man Standing and Nedbank Player of the Tournament accolades.

  • Andile Jali, Mamelodi Sundowns, September 2021Backpagepix

    Any transfer rumours?

    Even though the Matatiele-born player is coming off a very successful season, there are no rumours or reports suggesting that he could leave Sundowns in the upcoming South African winter transfer window. Gattuso is enjoying his stay at the Chlookop-based giants where he is one of the top earners and best players, and it wouldn't make sense for him to seek a move away from the most successful South African club in the PSL era.

    However, Mhlekazi has admitted that he still wants to play for the national team albeit being snubbed by Broos, having accumulated 44 Bafana caps. Maybe a move back to Europe could be what the accomplished player needs in order to enhance his chances of playing for the national team again having been a Bafana regular during his time with Oostende in Belgium, before returning home to join Sundowns. However, at the age of 32, Jali is likely to stay put at Masandawana and focus on his club performances having entered the twilight of his career.

    Jali signed a five-year contract when he joined Sundowns in 2018 and will only see his deal expire in 2023. The Tshwane giants could soon extend his contract as a reward for his excellent performance in the recent campaign as the club is not afraid to hand players in their 30s long-term deals. In 2020, Hlompho Kekana signed a four-year contract extension at the 12-time PSL champions despite being 34 at the time.

  • Andile Jali Mamelodi Sundowns Tshegofatso Mabasa Orlando Piratesbackpagepix

    One big fear for 2022/23

    Injuries hampered Jali's career at Sundowns in his first three seasons with the club which led to him missing matches and halting his momentum. However, the recent campaign saw Mhlekazi stay injury-free. Injuries are the only thing that could hinder the midfield maestro from dishing out good performances.

  • Andile Jali, Mamelodi Sundowns, April 2022Backpagepix

    One big hope for 2022/23

    For Jali to be recalled to the national team. The recent Bafana squad which played against Morocco in the 2023 Afcon qualifier lacked experience in midfield. The likes of Goodman Mosele and Sphephelo Sithole are newcomers at an international level and they were outsmarted by the Moroccans. A player like Jali would bring much-needed experience and stability to the Bafana midfield as the team looks to qualify for the 2023 Afcon finals.

  • Andile Jali, Mamelodi Sundowns, April 2022Backpagepix

    GOAL’s prediction for 2022/23

    Gattuso will look to continue from where he left off in the 2021-22 season having re-established himself as not only one of the best midfielders in the PSL, but one of the top players in the country. Mhlekazi will once again show that he is in a class of his own when compared with other South African midfielders if he stays injury-free.