Maccabi Tel Aviv star midfielder Eran Zahavi..
(photo credit: MACCABI TEL AVIV WEBSITE)
Israel national team coach Eli Gutman and midfielder Eran Zahavi insisted the heightened tension between the two was the result of a misunderstanding after meeting on Saturday.
Zahavi criticized Gutman and the Israel Football Association on Thursday, claiming that they didn’t speak out and support him after he was attacked by a Hapoel Tel Aviv fan during last week’s derby.
Gutman responded immediately, saying he had sent the Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder a text message, which Zahavi must have missed, before adding that Eran’s comments were “unfair” to the coach and his teammates and that “only time will tell if we will be able to put this behind us.”
However, Zahavi and Gutman spoke on the phone on Friday and the midfielder was named as expected in the 25-man squad for next week’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Bosnia. The two also decided to meet for lunch in a hotel in Caesarea on Saturday to prove that they have moved on.
“Eran is a main player on the national team and his commitment to the side is clear and exemplary,” Gutman said on Saturday. “The national team is perhaps the one place where it doesn’t matter which club you play for. We have a cohesive and united group of players who are happy to play with each other for a common goal.”
Zahavi admitted that he had missed a message from Gutman and said that he can’t wait to rejoin his Israel teammates in training later this week.
“I went through a tough week, a week which reminded me how much I love to play soccer,” he said. “This is all behind us now and I’m entering this week with a strong desire to play and do whatever I can for Israel.”
Gutman made just four minor changes to the squad which picked up six points from the qualifiers against Cyprus and Andorra last month.
In-form Lior Refaelov, who scored a hat-trick for Club Brugge in Europa League action on Thursday, Ofir Davidzada of Hapoel Beersheba and Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s Roei Kehat and Oded Elkayam were called up, with Taleb Tawatha, Hatem El-Hamid, Avi Rikan and Toto Tamuz being dropped.