For anyone interested in whether Siphiwe Tshabalala is actually going to end up at Crystal Palace, the last few days have been confusing to say the least.
The Bafana Bafana midfielder spent a week at Palace's training ground in Beckenham earlier this month in the hope of impressing Dougie Freedman enough to win a move to the UK. According to his agent Jazzman Mahlakgane, 'Shabba' was informed that Freedman was very interested in signing him on a free transfer before he returned to South Africa. A week later and with no news from Palace, though, Tshabalala's club Kaizer Chiefs issued a statement that said he would be signing a new three-year deal with them after the weekend that has just passed - a claim that was strongly refuted by Mahlakgane in the South African media. Sure enough, at the time of writing, no new contract has been signed after Freedman admitted in a press conference this morning that any move to sign him may rest on other players leaving the club. All of which leaves Tshabalala in a bit of a dilemma. Having opened up a series of fish and chip shops (a venture that has included appearances on billboards around Johannesburg), he's not short of a few bob already and any offer of a new contract from Chiefs is likely to involve a hefty signing-on fee and substantial salary. Unless they reach the Carling Cup Final or accept an offer for one of the club's coveted young stars like Nathaniel Clyne or Wilfried Zaha, that is likely to be more than Palace are willing to offer. As a top-earner in the South African PSL, Tshabalala could command wages of at least £6,000 a month (paying only 40% tax), with the signing on fee for such a crucial contract in his career ensuring he could expand the takeaway empire across South Africa and beyond. Yet his willingness to attend trials at Forest last year and brave the English winter in south London suggest that he has bigger fish to fry. Seeing the success of compatriot Kagisho Dikgacoi in English football's second tier has given Tshabalala the appetite to prove himself on a foreign stage and he knows this may be his last chance to do that. European clubs are unlikely to pay a transfer fee for a player who is tied into such an expensive contract and, at 27, is entering the final stage of his career, meaning Mahlakgane has been forced to play a dangerous waiting game. The whole saga should unfold over the next few days but Tshabalala will have his fingers crossed that his time has finally arrived.
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