Maccabi Haifa midfielder Ataa Jaber (right) celebrates with teammates after scoring his side’s second goal in last night’s 3-2 win over Hapoel Haifa..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
The 2015/16 Israeli soccer season officially came to a close on Tuesday night with Maccabi Haifa’s 1-0 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv in the State Cup final.
However, if the off-field developments that followed since the match are any indication, the coming off-season could be almost as fascinating as what unfolded on the pitch over the past campaign.
Minutes after the final had ended, Tel Aviv coach Peter Bosz confirmed he was leaving the club after just five months for the manager’s position at Dutch giant Ajax.
Tuesday’s loss with the first suffered by Bosz since joining the club in January.
However, despite going unbeaten in his first 24 matches over all competitions, Bosz and Maccabi ended the season empty- handed, relinquishing their hold on the cup three days after seeing Hapoel Beersheba claim the Premier League championship at their expense.
Maccabi clinched an unprecedented local treble last season, winning the Toto Cup as well as the championship and State Cup.
“I came here to win titles and we didn’t,” said a downcast Bosz after the final. “Probably we weren’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough. I had to congratulate Beersheba last week and today I’m congratulating Haifa.”
Bosz said he will take a lot from his short time in Israel.
“The club and the fans are amazing. And I love the city of Tel Aviv a lot. Even though it was only five months, it was fantastic,” added Bosz.
Maccabi will be aiming to sign a new coach in the coming days, with the team to already return to training ahead of next season on June 14. Due to Tuesday’s defeat, Tel Aviv will begin its Europa League campaign in the first qualifying round, with the first leg to already be played on June 30.
Since Jordi Cruyff was appointed as sport director in 2012, no coach has remained at Maccabi for more than one season.
After ending the club’s 10-year championship drought in the 2012/13 campaign, Oscar Garcia left for Brighton & Hove Albion of the English Championship. He currently coaches Austrian champion Red Bull Salzburg.
Paulo Sousa of Portugal replaced Oscar and led the team to a second straight league title before leaving for FC Basel. He now guides Fiorentina in Italy’s Serie A.
Oscar returned for a short stint in the summer of 2013, but left before the league campaign even began due to the security situation at the time.
Pako Ayestaran, also of Spain, was hired in his place and led the team to an unprecedented domestic treble last season. However, his contract wasn’t extended. His next team was Santos Laguna in the Mexican league, but he later joined Valencia in La Liga as an assistant to Gary Neville before being named as manager in March.
Slavisa Jokanovic of Serbia took his place, but after guiding the team to the Champions League group stage for the first time in 11 years, he bolted in December for Fulham of the English Championship.
Bosz surprisingly left Dutch top-flight team Vitesse Arnhem to join Maccabi, but he is departing after less than five months, receiving an offer he couldn’t refuse from Ajax.Benayoun on the move?
Tuesday’s victory ended Haifa’s 18-year State Cup drought and gave the Greens a first title of any sort after five barren years.
Nevertheless, much of the talk after the match focused on captain Yossi Benayoun and his expected departure for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Benayoun revealed after the final that Haifa had asked him to leave last September following the team’s poor start to the season and the unrest that followed in the dressing room.
According to Benayoun, it was owner Jacob Shachar who asked him to go, but after speaking with coach Roni Levy the two came to an agreement that if either one were forced to leave the club, the other would follow suit. Unhappy with the way he was treated by the Greens, Benayoun already told the club in February that he will be leaving this summer, with Maccabi Tel Aviv the likely destination.
“I came to Haifa with the intention of ending my career here, but things change in soccer,” said the 36-year-old Benayoun, who wants to be guaranteed a post-retirement job at his next club. “There is no other player in Israel who would have coped with what I coped with this season.”