Moroka Swallows coach Steve Komphela has named one of the PSL stars that would be the dream partner for Andile Jali, who he lauded as a phenomenal player.
Jali, 33, surprisingly joined Swallows shortly after Komphela’s appointment with both leaving the DStv Premiership champions Mamelodi Sundowns where they were seemingly no longer part of their long-term plans.
While 24 months ago he was the PSL Midfielder of the Season, his game time was limited in the 2022/23 campaign before his eventual release and question marks were raised about his potential impact as he carried excess kilos upon arrival.
But the defensive midfielder has shown finesse and poise at the base of Komphela’s midfield at the Dube Birds, featuring in all but two games, where he was suspended for a red card in the MTN8 quarter-final defeat against Sundowns.
“You don’t teach a lion to hunt, you don’t teach a crocodile to bite, it is in the instinct of the crocodile to just be monstrous, Andile is Andile,” Komphela said of his display.
“Anyone who would wish to want to define him otherwise now, even if I would want to break it down in terms of explanation, I would just be repeating what we all know, the guy is phenomenal, the only thing we worked on is getting into top shape.
“Fortunately I had been at Sundowns with him and the number of matches played at Sundowns is insane, I think in December they will be playing 10 matches in four weeks, that’s crazy.
“So there it was match, match, match, no training. So with us, it’s a bit better because you can tap into conditioning, now conditioning at training and matches you can also give him rest in between which allows him to get into top shape, which he is not yet.
“But he is better than the Andile that started with us at the beginning of the season which is why you see how he plays, in terms of brains, the guy has another level of thinking, there are certain things he does, we learn from, you can’t teach a player when to pass.
“How do you tell a player this is the moment to pass the ball, it’s not PlayStation. But the guy always makes the right decisions at all times depending on the frameworks we give to say listen, be calm and composed and invite the press.
“We love it when you press us, we love it and it gives us an opportunity to play, we have a problem when you don’t press us then it means the wall is standing and we need to move the train, move the wall. But each one who comes out of the wall to come here? That’s what Andile does, watch him, he’s between the strikers as if he’s not there…
With Jali providing the link from defence to midfield and even offering his trademark marauding runs to join in on the attack at times, the role has been likened to that of Brazil star Casemiro and all-time greats in Komphela’s view.
– Advertisement –
He also stated his former Bafana Bafana teammate Kamohelo Mokojto alongside the veteran midfielder would make for compelling viewing for any audience.
“Casemiro… at one stage in Brazil they used to call him the invisible Brazilian, if you look at CDM’s, defensive midfielders, any one of them you see in the match, there’s something wrong with them,” he continued.
“Those people must not be seen, like a referee, any referee you remember in a match, you must know that guy was too busy! A good referee is invisible in a match, he leaves the match clean not being centre stage. Same with defensive midfielders, go to Makelele at Real Madrid, they realised something was wrong after he left.
“They didn’t know the damage he was causing, they’re like elephants, destructive in silence, and so is Jali. Go to Kante at Chelsea, go to Diarra at Real Madrid, all these best defensive midfielders are unseen and invisible.
“When did you see AJ today? I remember seeing AJ as we lost the ball and suffered a counter. The rest of the match you never saw him but the guy was causing damage of note. In my opinion, he has the level of intelligence to play anywhere and he still has it.
“He’s got great influence and we appreciate having a player of that calibre, Mokotjo from Sekhukhune is not far from AJ at that position, if by any chance one could have a dream where the two would play together you would have a helluva great match because they are amazing on the ball.
“They are calm, you don’t see them but their pass breaks any possible wall that is put in front of their team, they are great players.”