NAIROBI, Kenya May 5 – As he seeks to strengthen AFC Leopards in a bid to end an 18-year Kenyan Premier League title drought, Belgian coach Ivan Minnaert has dropped 10 players from his first team and two reserves.
Headlining the list is defender Eric Masika who fell out with the coach at the beginning of the month after missing training for a whole week without explanation.
Aspire Academy graduate Khaleed Jumaan who has found it hard getting play time under the Minnaert was also not spared as was defender Solomon Nasio.
Other players to be axed include Geoffrey Ouma, reserve keeper Daniel Kiptoo, Ugandan Israel Emuge, Kevin Migunde, Tom Murilla, Simon Sikuku and Samuel Onyancha.
The non-registered players dropped are John Opwora and Eugene Wasilwa.
“We are looking to have a maximum of 25 players in the squad and we had to make room for players who we believe will strengthen the team for our objectives,” Minnaert told Capital Sport.
The former Rayon Sport coach says he has picked out four positions which will form a spine of his title-charging squad beginning June.
The coach will be out to shop for a left back, defensive midfielder, creative midfielder and a forward.
Minnaert has disclosed he has an agreement with Malian striker Ismaila Diarra whose contract with Rwandese side Rayon Sport ends in June while talks have also began with former KCB striker Mungai Kiongera whose contract with Tanzanian outfit Simba SC ends at the close of the current season.
“At the moment, Diarra is not my most important signing because if I bring him, together with Aswani I will have two very good strikers but no number 10 to supply them. Those four are the most crucial positions I want to fill and I have already settled on some names which we are working on,” the tactician added.
While saying he intends to bring in 12 new players, Minnaert will give Kenyan players the first priority and will only seek a foreign alternative if it proves difficult to get the players he has set his eyes on.
“Normally I think we can get seven or eight players but I have 12 positions that I would like to fill,” he offered.
Minnaert has called on his players to show the same spirit like the one they had last weekend when they played Ulinzi Stars in the KPL Top Eight as they prepare to face a tough Posta Rangers test on Sunday.
Ingwe are placed fifth on 18 points, only four short of leaders Mathare United and a win over Zedekiah Otieno’s Rangers will be vital in keeping their league campaign on track.
“We played with passion and purpose and that is the same way we should play. I believe in the team that played on Sunday and I will make only two changes. We need to keep pressing high and I know we will have a tough match against Rangers,” the tactician added.
Rangers have been enjoying good form having won three of their last five matches and it will be a tough test for Minnaert’s charges.