Kaizer Chiefs announced their marque signing, Keagan Dolly, amid lots of fanfare, last week alongside former Bidvest Wits midfielder, Cole Alexander. This comes as no surprise as the Naturena-based club’s faithful have been yearning for a big-name signing for a long time now.
The recent two-transfer window FIFA ban didn’t help matters at all, as Chiefs couldn’t register any players following their well-publicised unlawful signing of Andriamirado Andrianarimanana (Dax). In Dolly, on paper, Chiefs have their man. Chiefs finally have a big fish. The attacking midfielder left Mamelodi Sundowns and South Africa in 2017 with a huge reputation preceding him, following exceptional performances for the Chloorkop-based outfit, although their parting of ways left a lot to be desired. For those who have forgotten, there was a contractual dispute between the two bodies in relation to the price tag on the buy-out on the player’s contract. Sundowns eventually won the case and got what they believed was due to them for Dolly’s signature.
Dolly, after showing his qualities at Ajax Cape Town, Sundowns and Bafana Bafana, was touted as the next best thing to come out of South African football. His move to French Ligue 1 was seen as a step in the right direction for the then-24-year-old, with hopes of seeing him in one of the biggest leagues in the world through eye-catching performances in Ligue 1, but that never happened! To say his career hasn’t lived up to expectations would be an absolute distortion of truth. In almost five years out of the country, the diminutive midfielder comes back with a mere 64 appearances, appearing in the starting line-up only 22 times while coming off the bench 42 times, at Montpellier. He only found the back of the net twice! Notwithstanding the long-term injury he suffered in his second year in France, Dolly’s overseas career stats don’t make a good impression at all. If anything, his numbers raise red flags and certainly give ammunition to those who question Chiefs’ wisdom in going all out for his services. His stats don’t paint a good picture at all. Dolly left this country on top of the world, brimming with confidence, with a lot of teams both locally and abroad salivating at the prospect of having him on their books. How did it all turn so pear-shaped for him?
Yes, the likeable nimble-footed midfielder has never been a regular goal-poacher, but he’s always been found among those who know how to assist a teammate find the back of the net. South Africans will judge Dolly based on his reputation and will expect nothing less than the pace, skill and assists that were some of the striking characteristics of the 2013/14 PSL Young Player of the Season. His arrival at Naturena hasn’t escaped critique as some believe he’s overweight and nearing his ‘sell-by’ date. He therefore goes into his first season at his childhood club with a lot to prove. As if that’s not enough, he will be donning the team’s number 10 jersey, which is a challenge on its own. That jersey comes with a lot of ‘curse’ at Chiefs, if Dolly’s recent predecessors are anything to go by. Everyone knows the significance of that jersey in football and everyone knows what happened to Siphelele Ntshangase, who was the last Amakhosi player to don this special jersey. It is an open secret that Chiefs’ number 10 hasn’t been covered in any sort of glory in recent times and Dolly is expect to debunk the myth, if you will, of this being a cursed jersey number.
If there’s one player I feel should have donned that jersey number in recent years, it has to be none other than Siphiwe “Shabba” Tshabalala! He would have done a lot of justice to that special jersey number. In him, Chiefs had a match-winner, an influential player with a great presence and personality, creativity, flair and consistency, which are some of the key attributes that warrant anyone the privilege of running onto the pitch in that famed jersey number.
With Dolly coming off a rather disappointing spell in France, at 28, the pressure couldn’t be heavier on his shoulders. Once again, this is a player who left these shores on the back of a breathtaking season where he formed part of the deadly “CBD” (Castro, Billiat, Dolly) at Sundowns. Interestingly, all three players are now on the books of Chiefs and everyone will be expecting to see similar performances from the magical trio. However, everyone will be quick to remember that the three players haven’t been the same since they last played together at Sundowns. That said, a lot will still be expected from their reunion and Dolly will be seen as the catalyst that will breathe spark into the two players’ careers at Chiefs, a match made in heaven! Will the days of the “CBD” be revived? That’s the million-dollar question and only time will tell. Dolly has a lot to prove because some have already judged him, based on training pictures, without even giving him a chance to prove himself. Whether that’s just pure jealousy, supporters’ banter, or bitterness over his move to Naturena remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, Dolly is living his dream as he’s made it clear that he’s been supporting Chiefs from a young age and he now gets the chance to serve the multimillion passionate supporters and become a part of the team he’s been idolizing from a distance. He knows that there’s a lot at stake on this move, with a lot to prove. Will he be able to deliver and hit the ground running, on the back of such a disappointing European outing? You be the judge, but, once again, only time will tell.
Those who are quick to question Chiefs’ wisdom in this signing better remember that not many thought Dolly would make it at Sundowns, but he forced himself into the reckoning and became one of the most important players, especially in 2015/16, against all odds. He proved everyone wrong as some had already started putting together his career obituary the moment they realised he was going back to Sundowns, turning a blind eye to other teams’ advances. He kept his eye on the ball and delivered. Chiefs surely know what they saw in the player and he knows why things didn’t work out in France. The fact that he turned down offers from other admirers, in order to return home for family reasons, speaks volumes about Dolly’s quality.