South Africa

Sundowns’ Zungu compared to ex-Barca star Mascherano

Zungu Mokwena 1

Bongani Zungu’s resurgence has seen his coach Rulani Mokwena comparing him to Liverpool and Barcelona legend Javier Mascherano.

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Zungu has struggled to break into the Mamelodi Sundowns team since his return from Europe in 2022 after spells in Portugal, France and Scotland.

However, the 31-year-old holding midfielder has recently put some impressive displays for the team while being deployed in a slightly deeper role from the back.

Mascherano was also converted by Pep Guardiola from a defensive midfielder to a centre-back when he arrived at Barca from the Reds.

“The only way the players can get better is with game time because we don’t have time to coach and train. It’s just recovery, reviews and tactical work to prepare for the next game so it’s very difficult,” Mokwena said after Tuesday’s 3-0 win over AmaZulu thanks to hat-trick from Lucas Ribeiro.

“Fortunately, we had a very good period with them in Polokwane when we had a couple of players at the AFCON. We could give a little bit more attention to some of the players. You can see the performances have gone a little bit higher. Lebo (Maboe) was very good today.

“Zungu was top. He reminds of Mascherano, if you remember the role he used to play for Barca back in the day after he left Liverpool playing as a six and Bongz is doing that very well. He also complements Tebza (Teboho Mokoena) very well because he can get a little bit higher on the pitch.”

Mokwena also explained why he tweaked his line-ups since the campaign restarted. Dangerman Peter Shalulile and inspirational captain Themba Zwane were unused substitutes against Usuthu.

“The message that they are getting is that they’ve got to score to play and to score so many goals without Themba Zwane also Peter Shalulile sends a very strong message for the competition for places in the team,” said Mokwena while reflecting on Ribeiro’s performance who was dropped to the bench against FC Nouadhibou in the Caf Champions League.

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“He’s (Ribeiro) a good person and I was telling the guys that in Mauritania, he was on the bench that he was handing out water to the rest of the players who were playing in the heat. So this is the mentality and he’s a good person. He celebrates other people’s successes and that’s why God blesses him but this is the type of group we have of good human beings.”