Golden boot winners: How often PSL top scorers transfer abroad

Scoring the most goals in a league doesn't always mean a lucrative transfer.

Orlando Pirates’ Gabadinho Mhango is the frontrunner for the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot. Inevitably, his fine form has led to speculation of a possible overseas move. History suggests overseas top goalscorers in the PSL are far more likely to move abroad than the most prolific South African attackers.

Seven of nine past overseas PSL top scorers have gone on to play overseas at some stage afterwards. Zambia’s Collins Mbesuma won it both before and after playing abroad — the only player to pick up the prize twice.

The current holder of the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot is Black Leopards’ Mwape Musonda. His club’s chairman, David Thidiela, has previously hinted that he would like to see his striker join an overseas club.

Musonda might well follow in the footsteps of many foreign top PSL goalscorers before him, but not many South Africans have chosen to move abroad after winning the award.

Out of 14 past local winners, only four have moved overseas after claiming the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot.

How often Golden Boot Winners Transfer Overseas

This trend extends to the PSL Footballer of the Year award. Only four of 12 past South African winners since 2007-08 eventually opted to move overseas afterwards.

Darren Keet has been the only PSL Goalkeeper of the Year in this timespan to move overseas having won the award, but Africa’s top ‘keepers generally tend not to leave the continent. Only one of the last five CAF Goalkeepers of the Year was based outside Africa during the year for which they picked up the prize. 

Denis Onyango, Patrick Tignyemb and Kennedy Mweene are the three foreign goalkeepers to win the PSL Goalkeeper of the Year award since 2006-07 and even they have not moved overseas.

The same cannot be said for top foreign strikers in the PSL, who tend not to shy away from moves to Europe. Mhango has netted 14 times for Pirates in the league this season, making the Malawian a strong candidate to move abroad.

The likes of Neil Tovey and Nasief Morris have claimed that South African players today tend not to want to move abroad due to comfort at home. This could partially explain why there have been few South Africans in the present era following in the footsteps of Lucas Radebe, Benni McCarthy and Steven Pienaar, making names for themselves in the top European leagues.

Statistics on the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot winners in the PSL era support this theory. It can be viewed from a positive perspective, as the PSL is clearly a strong league if it is able to retain top-quality local players. Holding onto a top player such as Mhango from outside South Africa may prove more challenging.

Mhango’s agent, Mike Makaab, has suggested that an overseas move for his client is likely based on Orlando Pirates’ record of sending players abroad.

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Leonard Solms
Leonard Solms is a freelance South African multi-sport journalist who has written for a number of regional, national and international newspapers and websites. He won a Rhodes-Investec Top 100 Award in 2018, the year in which he completed his Bachelor of Journalism at Rhodes University.