By Grace Chingoma
In his five-year-stint at Mamelodi Sundowns, Khama Billiat worked under one coach — and he flourished.
However, that stability has been lacking at Kaizer Chiefs, where he has already changed coaches three times, in a period of two years.
The big question is will the Zimbabwe international flourish under the Glamour Boys’ latest appointment, Stuart Baxter, who returned to the club this week, replacing Gavin Hunt.
Baxter was the last coach, to win silverware, with the club. He returns at a time Billiat has faced challenges at the Soweto club, where he has failed to reproduce the form, which saw him win a treble of individual awards, in May 2016.
The awards included the top gong of Footballer of the Year. However, all that came during his days at Sundowns, when he was under the guidance of coach Pitso Mosimane.
The Warriors midfielder has to battle to try and regain his form, as well as adapting to different coaches, and their methodology.
At the Brazilians, he worked with legendary coach, Mosimane, winning back-to-back league trophies. When he joined Amakhosi in June 2018, he began to work with Italian coach Giovanni Solinas, who was brought to the club in July, shortly after the Amakhosi had swooped on Billiat. Solinas regarded Khama highly and believed he was the “Lionel Messi” of his team.
He was once quoted by the South African media praising the Zimbabwean midfielder, who had quickly settled at the club, and had contributed a number of goals and assists.
“Barcelona play with 10 players plus Messi. Kaizer Chiefs play with 10 players plus Billiat,” Solinas told the media.
‘‘Billiat is the best player in the PSL. He’s a top-class player in my opinion. Maybe, someone may disagree, but in my personal opinion, he’s an unbelievable player.
‘‘A fantastic player.
“He’s a player that makes the difference. He’s a player that’s not for the PSL, sorry guys. This player is for Europe.”
Solinas, though, lasted just five months.
Kaizer Chiefs then hired Ernest Middendorp, who took charge of the team, from 2018 to 2020.
The German mentor, however, did not have a good relationship with Billiat.
The supporters were frustrated as their coach kept subjecting the Zimbabwean, the highest-paid player in the league, to the bench. The breakdown, in the relationship, further affected the Warriors midfielder’s performances.
When the club were on the verge of clinching the 2019/2020 league title, Middendorp appeared to be was once quoted backing Billiat.
“We know it hasn’t been a great season for Khama, but everybody knows that he has huge potential and we can only support him and put him in the next movement, and expect that he can do better,” Middendorp said.
However, he was fired after the club were beaten to the title by Sundowns, on the last day, of the season. Billiat scored three goals during that season. Baxter, who once coached Warriors skipper Knowledge Musona at the Amakhosi, won two League and Cup doubles in 2012/2013 and 2014/2015.
Warriors team manager, Wellington Mpandare, said they are hoping Baxter will bring the best out of Billiat.
“We are hoping for the best. Since he now has a new coach, we will be hoping for a positive change, in his career,’’ he said.
‘‘Hopefully, Baxter will bring the best out of Khama, he is a star and he can do more in the field. He is currently recovering from the injuries and once he’s fit, he will be back to show his skills, on the field.
‘‘Baxter will bring out the best in him, even more than we can ever anticipate.
“He has always delivered for the Warriors, we have so much faith in him, a fit Khama benefits Chiefs and Zimbabwe.’’ The Herald