‘Yeye’ – Amakhosi's Very Own 'Xavi'
A quality box-to-box midfielder is often the driving force behind a successful football team. He must be a complete player in how he attacks and how he defends. In this Namaqua feature, we look at players both past and present who have enjoyed success in this role…
This week’s focus is on Kaizer Chiefs midfielder, Reneilwe Letsholonyane.
‘Yeye’ – Mzansi’s Only True Box-To-Box Midfielder?
It’s said he mastered his deft first touch and excellent close control from kicking a tennis ball around in the streets of White City as a youngster. In fact, this close control is what really sets Reneilwe Letsholonyane apart, as he is able to keep possession of a ball in the tightest of spaces and is Chiefs’ true link man between defence and attack.
When he is not on the field, as was the case recently when he received compassionate leave because of the passing away of his father, the Amakhosi often look a little lost. George Maluleka has shown he isn’t a natural replacement for ‘Yeye’ during his time at Naturena, and there are seemingly limited options to one day take his place in Chiefs’ midfield. Simply put, the Amakhosi will lose their very own Xavi when the 32-year-old’s legs one day start to slow. It should come as little surprise that Letsholonyane lists the Barcelona playmaker as his footballing idol.
Virtually every season ‘Yeye’ leads the PSL in passes made per game, touches and passing efficiency. Since joining the club as a bright, yet largely unheralded 25-year-old from Jomo Cosmos in 2008, he has gone on to become the club’s true metronome in the heart of midfield. He is as good at breaking up the play near his own box alongside Willard Katsande as he is at knitting Chiefs’ play together across the entire pitch. He is invaluable to the Glamour Boys because, in the PSL, he is arguably the only genuine, top-class, box-to-box midfielder. The argument to support this is virtually undeniable!
Reneilwe is a ‘gift’ to Kaizer Chiefs
True barnstorming box-to-box midfielders are a very rare commodity. Yaya Toure is currently world football’s most outstanding example. Paul Pogba is the heir to the throne. Steven Gerrard is the former king. These are players capable of doing everything required of a midfielder, from defending efficiently, dictating possession to scoring goals. In the PSL there are very few players who can match ‘Yeye’ in all of these aspects.
Mamelodi Sundowns’ Hlompho Kekana is more of workhorse and a destroyer. His teammate, Teko Modise, is the club’s playmaker higher up the park. Oupa Manyisa can be a passing metronome for Orlando Pirates, but his defending numbers are often below average. Sibusiso Vilakazi is more of a number 10 for Wits and his work rate when not in possession is generally not the highest. SuperSport United’s David Mathebula is a close approximation of Letsholonyane, however defensively he has never really had the same cutting edge as ‘Yeye’. Bloemfontein Celtic’s Musa Nyatama covers every blade of grass, but his goal return is unspectacular. Arguably, Platinum Stars’ Robert Ng’ambi is the only other true box-to-box midfielder, however he cannot perhaps dictate possession quite like ‘Yeye’.
In a sense, then, ‘Yeye’ is a rare weapon in the Absa Premiership because he can consistently perform and is unmatched by any other player operating in a similar role. With seven goals and numerous Man of the Match performances to his name already in 2014/15, ‘Yeye’s’ influence as a box-to-box operator is almost irreplaceable. Reneilwe means ‘gift’, which is exactly what he has become for Kaizer Chiefs.