Chilean international Marcelo Allende says he still gets confused over which side of the road to drive since his move to South Africa to join league champions Mamelodi Sundowns but he’s quickly grasped fitting in.
The baby-faced midfielder was reportedly signed for a whopping R50-million, according to reports in his native country, although yesterday co-coach Rulani Mokwena suggested this was “pure speculation” and an amount that just wouldn’t make sense given the economic climate.
But perhaps it would have been worth it, given Allende spent more than a month at Arsenal six years ago and the British tabloids even claimed that The Gunners were on the verge of offering the “wonderkid” a professional contract when he turned 18.
“Yes, I was at Arsenal and trained there. But I never played a single game – that’s just football,” Allende, speaking a bit of English and then quickly relying on the club’s Spanish translator, Bheki Sifuba, told journalists.
In the Premier Soccer League, Allende scored on debut against Stellenbosch FC and added another goal when Downs knocked out rivals SuperSport United in the MT8 quarterfinals late last month.
He’s made an immediate impact, but what does he think of the PSL?
“I can’t compare Arsenal and Sundowns, we know that the English Premier League has high intensity, speed and a high level.
“I know African players globally and they are the fastest and technically they are good and talented. I think being here will take my game to another level,” he explained.
“I spoke to the Uruguayan players that were here, like [Mauricio] Affonso. He told me the country is very nice, that the competition is hard because the other teams are also strong.
“The quality of the play is actually very good. I think the quality of the league is also interesting because each team has its own unique style of play and they make it difficult for every team they play against. Sundowns is the best team in Africa and I want to win trophies.
“I like it here. The driving is difficult because, in my country, we drive on the other side… but I am getting better.”
Allende isn’t bothered by the rumours that he cost the Brazilians so much money, and is only determined to try and break into the Chile national team squad.
“I am here to play football and not focused on what is being said about that. I have never put the price tag in my mind. I am just here to work and play football,” the player added.
“I would obviously love to make the national team, but that all depends on my performance and what I do on the pitch and help the team. That is what will bring me back to that level that got my national team appearances.
“Nothing will be controlled by external factors, it’s all up to me. Once that is in place, I am sure I will get another call-up.”