SA teen tipped for Real or Barca berth
Posted: 26 August 2017 Time: 13:53
KZN Academy director Carlos Catalino believes South African teenager Sphephelo Sithole can become one of the world's best defenders and play for a team of Real Madrid or Barcelona's stature.
On Thursday the KZN Academy announced 18-year-old Sithole had signed for Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon, the same club that developed global superstar and UEFA Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo.
Sihole joined the KZN Academy at the age of 14, and went on to feature at the 2014, 2015 and 2016 editions of the Durban International Tournament, notably donning the armband and scoring a 35-yard stunner against Arsenal at last year's event at Umlazi's King Zwelithini Stadium.
"My prediction is that Sphephelo is going to be in the top ten in the world in his position," Catalino tells KickOff.com from Portugal after finalising the move.
"Now he's going to have an opportunity to mature at Sporting. I believe that they're going to give him everything he requires because this is what they do well. The indication we got from the coaches and everything is that the world is in his oyster.
"I think Sporting Lisbon might even be a stepping stone for Sphephelo and I see much bigger things for the boy. I see the boy playing for one of the bigger teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid. I can assure that he'll be a top, top player and Sporting are going to give him what he needs."
Catalino revealed Ulundi-born Sithole was initially heading to Sporting Braga for a trial but Sporting nipped in to secure his signature after catching their eye at the 2016 Durban International Tournament.
"What happened is Sphephelo landed in the country [Portugal] and he was going to Sporting Braga on trials, but the Sporting Lisbon coach, who was at the tournament last year, as soon as he saw on Facebook that Sphephelo was coming to Portugal, he intercepted our international co-ordinator in Portugal," Catalino explains.
"He said to him, 'Please let the boy come to us for a day'. And they begged him, 'please, please bring him tonight to us. All I want is for him to play tomorrow and see if he's as good as what I remember'. And the next day they played a second division team and when they played the second division team, he went in and played the first 45 minutes and they went to our co-ordinator to say 'no, no, we want him and he shouldn't go anywhere'. So on Thursday he put pen to paper, so it's exciting."
Sithole was initially signed by the KZN Academy when the technical director was Paul Cardoso, who played a hand in nurturing Nani and Luis Figo at Sporting.
The KZN Academy has also unearthed Benfica's Thabo Cele and Orlando Pirates' Sandile Mthethwa and Brian Hlongwa; Maritzburg United's Luyanda Ntshangase and Protus Ndlovu; AmaZulu trio Nkanyiso Zungu, Menzi Ndwandwe and Dylan Stoffels; S.U.1 Dezembro's on-loan duo Simo Mbhele and Romario Morris, and Golden Arrows' Boysen Ndwandwe.