Chikoko leaves French club amid wage cuts

Vitalis Chikoko

ZIMBABWE basketball star Vitalis Chikoko has parted ways with French top-flight club Boulogne Levallois Metropolitans 92 after failing to agree a reduced wage package amid financial challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Chikoko was contracted to the Paris-based club until 2024 after being rewarded with a two-year contract extension in February last year due to his impressive on-court displays since joining from fellow French side Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez in 2019.

However, according to reports from France, the two parties agreed by mutual consent to terminate the contract due to the French team’s move to cut players’ salaries.

Boulogne Levallois Metropolitans 92 confirmed the departure of the 30-year-old Zimbabwean star in a statement on Friday evening.

“After two years of collaboration, the Boulogne-Levallois club informs you with regret that, due to a falling payroll, Vitalis Chikoko will no longer evolve with the Metropolitans next season.  The club would like to thank Vitalis for his investment and wish him success for the rest of his career,” the club said.

Chikoko’s exit from Boulogne Levallois Metropolitans 92 has reportedly set the stage for an imminent reunion with his former club Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez.

He spent three seasons with Pau-Orthez from 2016 to 2019 before joining the Parisian club in 2019 on a three-year deal before earning a contract extension that was expected to keep him with Metropolitans until 2024.

Chikoko is set to be unveiled at the Pau-based nine-time French league champions on Wednesday.

The 2,08m tall Zimbabwean power forward is widely acknowledged as one of the top players in the French Jeep Elite ProA despite recent injury problems.

In the 2020-2021 season, Chikoko missed the first few matches due to an injury, before rediscovering his form.

He finished the season averaging 11.7 points at 65.7% shooting success and 6 rebounds per game for the ambitious Paris-based club in the French Jeep Elite ProA.

Chikoko has earned three successive All-Star nominations in the last three seasons while also being a serious contender for the Jeep Elite ProA Most Valuable Player (MVP) to underline his status as one of the big stars of the French top division.

The Zimbabwe national team star has been based in Europe since 2011 when he moved to German club BG Goettingen.

After one season with Goettingen, Chikoko went to TBB Trier, which was coached by current German national team head coach Henrik Roedl. From there, Chikoko’s journey led him to Italy with Reggio Emilia and Verona, from where he finished the 2015-16 season with FC Bayern Munich back in Germany. And then in 2016, he started his current adventure in France by signing for Pau-Orthez, where he is now set to return for a second dance. – The Standard