The next move for Percy Tau may be the subject of hot gossip in South African football right now, but the man himself doesn’t appear particularly interested.
“Look, at the moment, I don’t know. I just want to focus on my exams,” said Tau this week, showing a remarkably down-to-earth attitude for a 24-year-old man-of-the-moment who just scooped the Premier Soccer League Footballer of the Season and Absa Premiership Players’ Player of the Season awards.
Tau’s coach, Pitso Mosimane, was busy talking up his Sundowns star’s move to an overseas club but Tau, it seems, will first be completing June exams in financial management, marketing management and computing before even thinking about a move to Europe.
The Bafana Bafana striker is also going to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but only as a spectator after a dreadful qualifying campaign for Stuart Baxter’s men, in which Tau was one of the few bright sparks.
Tau netted against both Burkina Faso and Senegal and it was not surprising when South African Football Association (Safa) president Danny Jordaan, upon handing him the Footballer of the Year award in Sandton on Tuesday, pleaded with him to get the team to Qatar in 2022.
“I am going to experience what I missed,” said Tau of his trip to Russia before brushing off any sense of expectation delivered by the words of the Safa president.
“There is no pressure, I have seen the president a lot and he has said a lot of good things [about me].”
Emblematic of a grounded persona, the Masandawana maestro has strong ties to his family, particularly his mother who came on Tuesday to watch him receive his awards.
“I need to be emotional because I was only raised by my mum and she is happy, she is so proud. Even though she doesn’t like football, she cares more about my education. Percy at home is very shy and quiet,” said Tau.
Despite winning the Caf Champions League with Sundowns in 2016, lifting the Absa Premiership with Sundowns this season, top-scoring in the league with 11 goals and starring for Bafana, Tau believes there is plenty he can do to improve his game, echoing the words of Mosimane, who has said he needs to improve his finishing.
Tau puts down some of his lack of ruthlessness to a late start at the top level.
He only really came to the fore in the Sundowns first team when he returned in 2016 to the Brazilians from a loan spell at Witbank Spurs.
“I scored 11 goals and I am proud of that. But I could have done much better with the chances I missed … I can still improve,” he said.
“I missed the opportunity to play at 19, 20, 21. I only got the chance at 22 and I am trying to close the gap. If I had chances before, maybe things would have been different. I could have got the experience and maybe I wouldn’t be missing so much.”
Still, Tau has done well enough to make him a key player for Sundowns and Bafana and possibly on the brink of a move to Europe. When pushed on which league in Europe he would like to play in, Tau did respond.
“Spain would be nice. That is where there is Real Madrid, who won the Champions League three times in a row. That is rare. It is always nice to challenge yourself to play in such a league,” said Tau, who is also not averse to following former Sundowns team-mates Bongani Zungu and Keagan Dolly to France.
“France is a great step for me. My next step will be interesting if it happens, if it doesn’t, it means I have to work on what I have.
“I don’t know what is going to happen. The only thing I have to do is go and study and I will talk about football when I get back from the World Cup,” said the Sundowns man.
If Tau is still at Sundowns next season, he will return from the World Cup to help them continue their latest campaign in the Caf Champions League before next season’s domestic season gets underway.
Either way the future is bright for South Africa’s latest superstar and he seems to have his feet firmly on the ground.
This has to be encouraging for Bafana fans, too, with the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on the horizon – and even further distant, the hope that Bafana can make it back to a World Cup finals in Qatar in 2022.