Orlando Pirates head coach Jose Riveiro has opened up on the debates wrangling on whether winger Monnapule Saleng is in contention for the PSL Footballer of the Season.

With Saleng not earning a start in the opening nine league games of the season, due to being behind the pecking order and then competing in the African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers with Bafana Bafana, few could have predicted what’s transpired.

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In 17 starts across all competitions, he’s now directly contributed to 18 goals and showing that sort of form that earned him the Golden Boot in the second tier with Free State Stars before Pirates snapped him up in July 2021.

Riveiro is known for not offering individual praise or singling out his players away from the team efforts he’s looking to instill in the Buccaneers, who undoubtedly boast a star-studded squad – but he hinted, that Saleng’s exploits hold him in good stead over others.

“You know the… personally I am, I really see this game as a collective, so I’m not really… even if I get a trophy, it’s not for me, it’s for the team, it’s for the coaching staff, we working together,” Riveiro said.

“Individual awards in football, I understand the meaning, I understand it’s attractive and it’s going to be always for the ones, as I said before, the ones who assist because it’s the beauty of the game.

“And it’s going to be difficult for that trophy to go to a centre-back, for whatever reason, we can analyse… So if one of my players gets a trophy, I’m so happy for him because it means that the team is getting benefits from that individual contribution.”

The Spaniard who’s lifted the MTN8 trophy in his debut season and remains in contention for the Nedbank Cup admitted that should Saleng continue to shine, it would be beneficial as it would likely to help provide positive results for the remainder of the 2022/23 season.

“We need that… as well, our job [as coaches] is to help them play good football together. Which is not that easy and there’s many cases, we probably have many names of teams with a lot of talent that don’t manage to play well, that’s the difficulty of the task.

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“But individuals, it’s going to be good for the player because it’s going to be good for the future and I hope [Saleng], can fight with any other player in our squad, in our team.”

Saleng will now be aiming to continue his blistering form in the last-16 of the domestic cup when they face Venda Football Academy next week.

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