DStv Premiership

What makes Ralani different to an average PSL winger…

Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rulani Mokwena has described Bradley “Surprise” Ralani as a rare breed and believes the winger is certainly not your average Joe in terms of talent and ability.

Ralani’s age is, without a doubt, not a concern for Mokwena and Sundowns. But the 34-year-old was somehow a surprise signing from Cape Town City, given his age.

The Brazilians captured Ralani on an 18-month deal, and Mokwena has explained in detail why the club acquired the attacker’s services.

“Ralani’s recruitment raises a lot of question marks, particularly because of his age, [but] in football, the most important thing in recruitment is to always try to bring in the right player,” said Mokwena.

“Sometimes the right player is not the player between a certain age. The right player is sometimes recruited because of the needs of the team. How do you improve the quality and the strength of the team?

“There are two ways. One is by training, to use the type of players you have to improve certain aspects and therefore improve the different components of the team.

“Secondly, you can do it by recruiting players, and we decided to go in that direction because of the profile of the player Ralani is. If you look at Ralani in terms of his contribution to Cape Town City, you make a direct comparison between his profile and the average quality in the PSL and availability within the market.

“You also look at what you have in relation to the direction you would like the team to go towards. You begin with the end in mind trying to ensure that the team is ready for the Champions League. There are certain parameters that the team has got to meet, and you are trying to make sure that it is competitive on all fronts,” added Mokwena.

Ralani enjoyed success in the Mother City as he clinched the MTN8 with CT City and made 118 appearances with 16 goals and 27 assists to his name.

According to the Sundowns tactician, Mokwena, the numbers suggest there is a massive difference between Ralani and “the average performances in the PSL.”

“Ralani is what you would call an outlier. He is already contributing towards 1.4 on average scoring opportunities as an offensive midfielder, and the average in the PSL is 0.378, that’s almost twice the number of scoring opportunities that Ralani can create,” explained Mokwena.

“He is also measuring about 6.5 key passes in a game as compared to 6.37 key passes, and already at 34, those numbers are higher than what you would typically get in the PSL. His ball progression, in other words, his dribbling, he is averaging 4.1 successful dribbles in a match, compared to 2.3 on average for offensive midfielders in this league.

“Not only that, even his defensive game. He is winning duels at 1.1 per game as compared to the average in the PSL of 0.018.”

“So you also look at where is a lot of those actions happening and fortunately he was playing for a team like Cape Town City that also acted with a lot of high press and Ralani was winning 1.6 balls in very aggressive areas that resulted into chances, more than the average offensive midfielders in the league at 0.4.

“So his numbers suggest he is a player who can come in and immediately contribute to improving the squad.”

Mokwena also labelled Ralani as a player with the right technical and tactical qualities, and the coach is of the opinion that the winger’s European experience will come in handy.

“Then we were looking at the experience of playing in Europe and having already acclimatised to playing in SA. He is an SA-born player with such high quality,” he said.

“The experience that he comes with also affords you the possibilities of getting benefits from even younger players like Promise [Mkhuma], [Sphelele] Mkhulise, [Thabiso] Kutumela and all these other players, not just on the conduct off the pitch but also how he carries himself and positions himself in between the lines, how he’s always a danger for the next line.

“Players like Ralani are not players that play between opponents or right on top of lines. They play in between the lines and invite the press from the next line, which is not always easy to get in South African football.

“Because it becomes very difficult for players to show patience in positioning and to be in the right position, arrive in that position in the right time and be able to receive the ball and then cause problems for the next line.

“And fortunately, with Ralani being available, we knew that we could address a lot of these possibilities and bring a lot of qualities that he possesses to try to improve the team,” concluded Mokwena.

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