WARRIORS star man, Khama Billiat has the qualities to play for a team in the English Premier League, according to a leading British football journalist.
BY HENRY MHARA
Jonny Singer, who writes for DailyMail, The Sunday Times and ESPN, is in Gabon to cover the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and yesterday gave a list of players, who have caught his eye so far, who can make the grade in the Premier League. The league is widely regarded as the best in the world.
Top of his list is the wonderfully gifted Billiat, who he said has the qualities needed to thrive in the more demanding league.
Singer noted that, while Billiat lacks height and build, he compensate with pace, silky skills and terrific footwork.
“While Zimbabwe may have gone out in the group stage, Billiat was one of their stars of the tournament, especially impressive against Algeria, where he proved himself against defenders, who are playing at the top level in European football,” he wrote.
“At 26, Billiat is probably too old to be signed as one for the future. He is fairly lightweight, and would probably take time to adapt to the English game. That said, his ability to cope with some dreadful pitches in Gabon, and still trick his way past opponents suggests he is more than capable of adapting quickly.”
“Probably not a top Premier League side, but a mid-table club looking for a versatile goal-threat could consider Billiat to be worth a try. There is reported interest from clubs in the French and Belgian top flights, but don’t rule out a move to England down the line.”
Ghanaian football legend and former Bayern Munich defender, Samuel Kuffour also reckons Billiat is now ripe for Europe and urged the winger to make the move immediately.
“Billiat is one the best African talents I have seen in a long time. This guy can be on another level because he has everything. I think you have to move him to Europe,” Kuffour said during his post-match analysis of the Warriors’ 2-2 draw with Algeria at Afcon, where Billiat was outstanding.
“It would be very disappointing for Africa not to see him playing here. But in terms of his career and what he can do at 26 years, you have to move him to Europe.”
Kuffour, a European Champions League winner with Bayern, offered further praise for the diminutive Mamelodi Sundowns attacker:
“He is amazing to watch. For me, being a defender, it would be very difficult to play against this boy. He is small and you don’t know what he is going to do. He is quick with the ball, he has everything. For me, I would love to see him go outside [overseas] for his future.”
Reports suggest French Ligue 1 side, Stade Rennais are tapping Billiat, but Sundowns this week publicly said they haven’t received any formal offers for the midfielder.
Billiat was expected to light up the Afcon after leading Mamelodi Sundowns to Caf Champions League glory, but, while he showed glimpses of his quality, he generally performed below expectations.
However, the former Caps United player did enough to convince journalist Singer to include him on the list of “rough diamonds” at Afcon, who can make it big time.
The seven-men list includes Senegal young sensation, Balde Keita, who caused havoc in the Warriors defence when the Lions of Teranga put Billiat’s team to the sword at the tournament.
Keita, a product of Barcelona’s famous La Masia Academy, plays for Italian giants Lazio and is being linked with a move to Manchester United, Liverpool and PSG. Cameroon winger, Christian Bassogog, Denis Bouanga (Gabon), Junior Kabananga (DRC), Ahmed Hegazy (Egypt) and Ghana’s Thomas Partey are some of the stars at Afcon, that have potential to earn a move to the EPL, according to Singer.
Afcon, which reaches the quarter-finals today, has always offered a chance for some of the continent’s lesser-known players to shine.
Two years ago, Eric Bailly, now of Manchester United, and Didier N’Dong, Sunderland’s record signing, both emerged as stars before going on to move to the Premier League.