Farewell Steven Pienaar: The greatest export of his generation?

Steven Pienaar

On Wednesday 28 February 2018 former Bafana Bafana captain, Steven Pienaar, announced his retirement to the world via a video posted on Twitter.

‘Today I’m announcing my retirement from football. I just want to say thanks to my mum, my family and all the clubs that I’ve played for and the supporters of course, how could I forget you guys. Thanks for the love throughout my career, ‘ said the former Everton man in the video.

The midfielder’s retirement has raised the question about who South Africa’s greatest export is…

While the country has several famous exports, Pienaar has often been referred to as the greatest of his generation.

Pienaar enjoyed an illustrious career which saw him play for some of Europe’s biggest clubs in some of the world’s biggest leagues.

The 35-year-old from Johannesburg made the move down to Cape Town to join Ajax Cape Town as a 16-year-old. After an impressive two-year spell with the Urban Warriors, Pienaar made his move to Europe as he was snapped up by Dutch giants, Ajax.

Despite taking a year to make his first appearance for Ajax, once in the side, he managed to cement his place forming an integral part of a team which included the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović, Maxwell, Nigel de Jong, Rafael van der Vaart, and Wesley Sneijder, winning the Eredivisie (Dutch League) in 2002 and 2004 respectively.

The player affectionately known as “Schillo” then made the move to German club Borussia Dortmund in 2006.

He, however, struggled to find his feet in Germany and quickly moved on to English side, Everton, on an initial loan deal which was later made permanent for a fee of £2 million in 2007.

Pienaar thrived at Everton under manager David Moyes where he formed a formidable partnership down the left-flank with Leighton Baines.  He was awarded Everton’s Player of The Season in the 2009/2010 campaign.

His exploits at the Toffees caught the eye of both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspurs, who both had bids accepted for the South African in January 2011.  Pienaar, however, ended up signing for Spurs on a four-year deal.

Sadly, injuries played a major role in his time in North London where Pienaar found it difficult to force his way into the starting eleven.

After just a year at Spurs, The Everton cult hero made his return to the club in January 2012. On his return to Merseyside the midfielder recaptured his best form.

In just 14 matches, he scored four goals and recorded seven assists, ending the season with the best figures for assists and chances created per game.

Again, injuries devastated his final years at Goodison before his release at the end of the 2015-16 season. He reunited with former Everton manager David Moyes, at Sunderland where he endured a difficult campaign  Black Catsfail to sruvive the drop bringing to an end Pienaar’s time in Europe.

The midfielder returned to South Africa joining Bidvest Wits for a six-month stint in which he failed to make any significant impact.

So, is Pienaar South Africa’s greatest export of his generation?

There are a few others who could stake a strong claim for the title of the all-time greatest export such as Benni McCarthy and Lucas Radebe.

Those players however came through in a different generation of footballers and while they arguably have a stronger case as South Africa’s greatest export, Pienaar will undoubtedly carry that tag for his generation.

Photo: Gallo Images

-This story originally appeared on SportClub.co.za