'Samatta wanted a PSL transfer'

English Premier League

Mbwana Samatta made history this month as the first Tanzanian to play for a Premier League club but a desire to move to the Absa Premiership along the road has since been revealed.

Samatta, 27, signed a four-and-a-half-year contract with Aston Villa last week in a deal worth a reported £10 million (R190m) but the transfer represented far more than its historical title.

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It marked a significant step to ending the stereotype that East Africa cannot produce talent deemed worthy for the upper echelons of European football.

His professional career started in 2010, the same year the FIFA World Cup was hosted for the first time on African soil, and what Samatta has achieved since has been nothing short of extraordinary.

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In only six months in the Tanzania top-flight, Samatta's 13 goals in 25 league games for Simba Sports Club convinced TP Mazembe to make a move for the promising teenage talent.

After five years with the DR Congo giants, he was the top scorer in each full season while leading the club to four league titles, two Super Cups and their 2015 CAF Champions League success.

But this is where his desire to achieve more dwelled in his mind, and with his goal of moving to Europe not yet forthcoming, he contemplated a possible move to South Africa.

African football expert Thomas Kwenaite explained the scenario as one of Africa's brightest talents nearly arrived in the PSL.

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"His five-year contract with Mazembe was coming to an end and Mazembe naturally wanted to extend it but he wasn't interested at all," Kwenaite explained. "He wanted to make a move to South Africa or Europe.

"I think at the time, I can only assume it was due to a number of situations. First there was political instability in DR Congo.

"[Club president Moise] Katumbi was spending less time in the country with his political involvement with the presidential elections and Joseph Kabila was not happy that Katumbi would be challenging him for the presidency at the time.

"There was that instability in DR Congo but also when he left Tanzania for TP Mazembe, I think Samatta felt that during his time at Mazembe he'd be exposed enough to get a contract to play in Europe.

He added: "But after five years when it didn't materialise, what he was not aware of, there might have been one or two clubs in Belgium and Denmark that were interested in his services but Katumbi turned them down.

"So I think he felt that maybe if he left and came to South Africa, everyone knows the PSL is one of the best-marketed leagues across the continent, so he thought that the league could be a shopping window for him to showcase his talent so that after a year or two he could move on to Europe.

"His ambition was high and he probably felt he wasn't marketed properly at Mazembe. There were a few clubs who noticed him and that's where he thought South Africa would be the perfect platform." 

Samatta did eventually find his way abroad, joining Genk in January 2016 after winning the Inter-Club African Player of the Year award and his meteoric rise continued.

Over three-and-a-half seasons, he netted 74 goals in 191 games across all competitions while lifting the Belgian league and Super Cup titles en route to UEFA Champions League qualification.

And this led Villa boss Dean Smith to secure his signature, which has brought in much more than a prolific African striker as Dar es Salaam turned into Villa Park for his debut in the EFL Cup on Tuesday evening.