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OPINION: Is Riyaad Norodien really ready to play for Orlando Pirates?

Posted: 21 June 2016 Time: 14:57

Riyaad Norodien’s rise from rookie to Sea Robber came within the space of just 11 months of first-team football, but is he ready? Mark Herman tracks his rapid ascension from rough diamond to one of the biggest teams in South Africa.

Big changes are underway at Orlando Pirates with Muhsin Ertugral the new coach and several new players signed, and it’s a big change for the player, who admitted his shock earlier today after receiving news of his move via SMS.

READ: Da Sa: It is what it is

Agentless Norodien – who not so long ago was yet to sign his first professional deal due to certain contractual differences between Ajax Cape Town and his former representative Rob Moore – thrilled the modest Urban Warriors crowds at Athlone and Cape Town Stadium after he made his PSL debut on 4 April 2015.

Still wet behind the ears, Norodien showed that he was a fearless runner with the ball, a direct attacker with natural dribbling ability, but his finishing still a work-in-progress.

READ: Norodien: My best is yet to come

Several man-of-the-match awards followed in the first half of last season as Norodien started to make his name, inevitably earning him the tag of ‘next Ajax gem’.

And a gem he was – my favourite new player in the PSL – until the second half of the 2015/16 season when he struggled to repeat those early stellar performances, something coach Roger de Sa told KICK OFF magazine could be attributed to opponents having worked him out.

Did he start to relax after becoming a 'PSL soccer star'? That would be hugely unfair to say because in every interview and story I've seen of Norodien, and every game I've seen him play, he seems a hard-working, humble player with a level head and great ambition.

But his inability to remain consistent – not unusual for one so young and a typical problem for South African players – meant he lost his place as a starter in the Ajax team for a spell and was also dropped from Owen da Gama’s latest South Africa Under-23 squad, which travels to the Rio Olympics in August.

That disappointment has now surely vanished for the 21-year-old, who in two months’ time will be entering the ‘big leagues’ in South Africa – playing for a team that will get him more respect, more eyeballs, and more pressure, whether he plays at the Olympics or not.

It is a massive task for any young player – especially attacking players – to move from the relative comfort of Cape Town to cut-throat Johannesburg and perform immediately, which is what will be expected at a club like Pirates whose supporters are demanding a return to trophy-winning success under a new coach next season.

This is not even mentioning the string of current Pirates players who play in his position and are more prominent, assuming they are not released.

Keagan Dolly and Khama Billiat are two similar players who recently made that transition from development team Ajax to the big-time of an ambitious Gauteng club, although the difference is that those two had a few full PSL seasons behind them before they were plucked from Ikamva.

Norodien comes with enormous potential but little experience. In total, he featured 38 times for Ajax, scored four goals and assisted five more, and while he is clearly a very promising and exciting player, he is a signing that will most likely only make his mark at Mayfair in future seasons – if he can navigate the pressures and politics that come with playing for an ambitious team.

I really hope he does, and I believe he has the quality and mentality to excel. Norodien must just take this unexpected opportunity to impress Ertugral and truly raise his game to the next level, both for Pirates next season and, with a little bit of good fortune in his favour, hopefully one day soon for Bafana Bafana.

HAVE YOUR SAY! Are you as excited as I am about Norodien joining Pirates and do you think he is ready? Whose place should he take – Rakhale? Masuku? Motupa? Memela? Qalinge? Morrison? Majafa? Myeni? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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