…Munetsi on verge of Ligue 1 switch
WARRIORS star Marshall Munetsi has struck gold after agreeing to join French topflight side Stade Reims at the beginning of next season, while Belgian side Zulte Waregem have also tabled an offer for the midfielder.
BY HENRY MHARA IN DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA
Impeccable sources told NewsDay Sport that the Orlando Pirates player, who turns 23 this month, has agreed personal terms with the French club and is expected to sign a contract soon.
“There are many teams across Europe who have shown genuine interest on him, but he has picked Reims,” the source said.
“He is heading for France. The deal is almost done and barring unforeseen circumstances, he will be playing in French Ligue 1 next season. His handlers have met with the club officials and they have agreed terms. Reims are now talking to Munetsi’s club Orlando Pirates.”
Reims are in the France top division and finished eighth on the league table last season, 11 points short of a Europa League spot.
The Reims-based club thrashed PSG 3-1 in the last match of the season.
They are home to a number of Africans that include Moussa Dombia (Mali), Hassane Kamara (Gambia), Jacques-Alaixys Romao (Togo), Abdul Rahman Baba (Ghana), Yunis Abdekhamid (Morocco), Edouard Mendy (Senegal) and Ghislain Konan (Ivory Coast).
If the deal is finally sealed he will follow in the footsteps of Benjani Mwaruwari and Harlington Shereni who played in the France top division.
Munetsi is currently with the Zimbabwe national team at the Cosafa Cup tournament in Durban, South Africa, a tourney the Warriors are using as part of their preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals to be played in Egypt later this month.
But the utility player, who plays in midfield and in defence, missed the team’s quarter-final match against Comoros on Saturday after asking to be excused from joining camp to sort out his future.
He only joined the rest of the Warriors squad on Sunday in Durban.
Another source said Munetsi, whose stature is likened to the Ivory Cost legend Yaya Toure, is also being tracked by a number of other European clubs.
Belgian side Zulte-Waregem have reportedly shown genuine interest and are ready to gazump Reims for the player.
A medical examination has already been booked for the player in Belgium and the club wants the player to travel to the European club soon after the Warriors friendly match against Nigeria in Asaba on Saturday.
His air ticket has since been secured for the Belgian trip.
But Munetsi’s handlers, according to sources, have asked for the medicals to be conducted in Egypt where the Warriors will go soon after the Nigeria friendly, ahead of the Afcon finals tournament.
“His handlers feel that allowing him to leave for Europe during this crucial period of Afcon preparations will distract him in a big way. They have asked for the club (Zulte-Waregem) to travel to Egypt and do the medicals there. The club is determined to have the player and have been trying to convince him. They are phoning him almost on a daily basis. They want to better the offers that have been tabled by the other teams. Zulte-Waregem has started negotiations and Munetsi’s agent will meet with Orlando Pirates today (yesterday) to discuss the deal,” the source added.
Munetsi refused to comment on the reports, saying he wants to focus on the Cosafa and the Afcon competitions.
If the move to Europe materialises as expected, it would be a huge jump in the flourishing career of the player who was playing in the lower divisions a few seasons ago.
Munetsi played for Friendly Academy and Blue Rangers before he was signed by South African National First Division side FC Cape Town in July 2015. The team released a statement saying he was “in the mould of a typical Yaya Touré. Big‚ strong‚ mobile and a good passer of the ball”.
He was signed by Orlando Pirates in 2016 who loaned him to Baroka FC for a season.
Munetsi was recalled by his parent club in 2017 and has been part of the squad since then, playing regularly and caught the attention of coach Sunday Chidzambga.
And after impressing at last year’s Cosafa Cup where he helped the team clinch the title, he was drafted into the team for the Afcon qualifiers.
Again, he played an integral part as the team booked their ticket to the Egypt Afcon finals set to kick off in just over two weeks.
A lot is expected from him and his teammates with some suggesting that this squad is Zimbabwe’s golden generation at the Afcon finals.
Zimbabwe are in Group A, together with hosts Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. The Warriors will open their campaign with a tough match against Mo Salah’s Egypt in the tournament opener on June 21.