In a strategic move during the Major League Soccer (MLS) off-season, Orlando Pirates are eyeing a potential comeback bid for Bafana Bafana striker Bongokuhle Hlongwane, sources from Soccer Laduma reveal.
The 23-year-old Hlongwane’s connection with Pirates predates his stint with Minnesota United FC in the United States. The club had expressed interest in him while he was still with Maritzburg United, but a deal proved elusive. Now, with Hlongwane’s contract at Minnesota United set to conclude on December 31, 2023, discussions between the player’s representatives and the Pirates are reportedly in progress.
A Soccer Laduma source emphasized the uncertainty surrounding the nature of the potential deal. “You know Bongi’s contract at Minnesota United is coming to an end on the 31st of December 2023. Though his current team has a one-year option,” the source explained. “So, I can’t say whether Pirates want him permanently or if they want him on loan for that three months or so. They have talks with his representatives, and it will depend on what they agree on or if they disagree. But for now, we can say it’s almost there as far as talks are concerned.”
Another source highlighted the significance of the move for Hlongwane’s international career. With the South African national team’s coach, Hugo Broos, showing a tendency to overlook players abroad who aren’t consistently fielded, a transfer to Pirates could secure Hlongwane’s spot. This was exemplified by the exclusion of Toronto FC player Cassius Mailula due to irregular playtime.
“Pirates are really interested in the striker. They want to add to their striking force. For now, their main strikers are Zakhele Lepasa, Evidence Makgopa, and Kermit Erasmus, and that’s why they want another striker who can add value to their team,” explained the second Soccer Laduma source.
However, the deal remains in the balance, and the source added, “But I can’t say it’s 100% done at the moment. The other reason they want him is to help him maintain his position in the national team because he can’t be off-season for those three months without playing.”
In essence, Pirates are strategically positioning themselves to bolster their striking options with the potential acquisition of Hlongwane, not only to enhance their squad but also to support the player’s international aspirations.
As talks unfold, it will be interesting to see the resolution of this high-stakes transfer saga.