Sundowns' new signing Meza cost R13-million and he's not the first from Venezuela
Mamelodi Sundowns confirmed the signing of Venezuelan striker Jose Ali Meza on Wednesday‚ their latest South American addition to the squad to go with Uruguayan forward Gaston Sirino and Brazilian centre-back Ricardo Nascimento.
Meza‚ who if reports in Bolivia where he previously played for Oriente Petrolero are to be believed‚ cost Sundowns in the region of R13-million and is not the first player from Venezuela to turn out for The Brazilians though.
There have been two players from that country to wear the colours of the Tshwane side‚ with one who is now the current national team coach of Venezuela.
Sundowns were led by Argentina coach Miguel Ángel Cappa at the start of the 2005/06 PSL season and he used his connections back to South America to bring in a pair of Venezuelan players.
The first was goalkeeper Rafael Dudamel‚ who was coming to the end of an international career that would see him earn 56 caps for his country.
He spent just a single season with Sundowns though‚ making just eight appearances as he battled with the stalwart South African duo of Andre Arendse and Brian Baloyi for the number one jersey.
Once Cappa was sacked midway through the campaign and replaced by the co-coaching duo of Miguel Gamondi and Neil Tovey‚ he barely got another look in.
But he did make a contribution to Sundowns winning the league title that year as they claimed the Premiership‚ the first of two successive championship wins.
Dudamel ended his club career in 2010‚ but has since gone into coaching and after leading the Venezuela Under-17 and Under-20 national teams‚ was appointed head coach of the senior side in 2016.
Venezuela finished bottom of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification pool‚ but did have some high points‚ including a 5-0 win over Bolivia‚ a 1-1 draw in Argentina‚ and draw with World Cup finalists Peru and Colombia.
Dudamel was joined at Sundowns in 2005/06 by striker Jose Torrealba‚ who would later also go on to play for Kaizer Chiefs.
The pint-sized forward was influential through the campaign for Sundowns‚ making 31 starts and scoring 11 goals in all competitions.
That was one goal behind the club’s leading scorer that season‚ Surprise Moriri‚ and level with the largely forgotten Sandile Ndlovu.
It was around that time that he made his debut for the Venezuela national side‚ his profile boosted by the move to Sundowns‚ and he would score four goals in 17 appearances for the national side.
He had an even better season with the side the following year as they romped to the league title again under Gordon Igesund‚ scoring 16 goals in 35 starts‚ again just behind Moriri though‚ who netted 18 times.
But his stay did end on a sour note when the player and his agent accused Sundowns of forging his signature on a contract extension‚ which turned into a bitter battle.
He was eventually allowed to exit the club and joined Chiefs in January 2008‚ where he would stay until 2011‚ without ever quite hitting the same heights he managed at Sundowns.