Maccabi Tel Aviv Coach Jordi Cruyff..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
The next seven weeks may not decide the legacy of Jordi Cruyff at Maccabi Tel Aviv, but he would still like nothing more than to cap his time with the yellow-and-blue with one more Premier League title.
Cruyff came in to Maccabi as a sports director in the summer of 2012 and led the yellow-and-blue back to the top of local soccer. After going a decade without a league title, Maccabi won three consecutive Premier League championships in his first three years at the helm, as well as claiming a State Cup and two Toto Cups.
The second Toto Cup came under the guidance of coach Cruyff, who moved down from the front office to begin his coaching career at Maccabi last summer.
Cruyff and Maccabi owner Mitch Goldhar announced last Tuesday that his time at the club will come to an end following this campaign in what both he and his boss described as a mutual decision.
Cruyff will be remembered one of the main reasons Maccabi regained its powerhouse status in Israeli soccer regardless of the way this season ends. But he is nevertheless desperate to finish on a perfect note, starting with Tuesday night’s match at Maccabi Netanya.
“It’s about the fans and the club and we are professionals who will fight for the title as long as it is possible,” said Cruyff on Monday, insisting he shouldn’t be the focus.
“We don’t win titles for people but for the organization, for everyone involved. Our mentality is to focus on the 90 minutes and be stable for the full game. We have to just try and win games.”
Maccabi hasn’t played in more than two weeks since conceding a stoppage-time goal to lose 2-1 to Hapoel Haifa. That defeat left Tel Aviv in third place in the standings, five points back of leader Hapoel Beersheba with nine matches to play over the next seven weeks.
Beersheba hosts second-place Beitar Jerusalem, which is one point back, at Turner Stadium on Wednesday, while Hapoel Haifa visits Bnei Yehuda.
“The week has been a good and calm week. Stability has been positive and this is another game that is like a final,” added Cruyff. “We looked at how the team reacted to the news and they have been training well, competing for positions and I’m pleased as to how the week has been.”
Netanya is playing for little more than pride, sitting in fifth place, 10 points behind Hapoel Haifa and Maccabi Tel Aviv. Netanya, which is coming off a 2-0 defeat to Beitar Jerusalem after winning its previous three matches, lost to Maccabi in their first two meetings this season.
Nevertheless, Cruyff remains wary of Slobodan Drapic’s side.
“They have talented players who play positive and fresh football and we have to be very alert because with one action they can cause issues,” he explained. “They play good football and are one of the positive points of the Israeli league this season.”
Drapic said Israeli soccer will miss Cruyff.
“He was one of the greatest additions in Israeli soccer history,” noted Drapic. “He brought with him something new. We were all jealous of what was going on at Maccabi Tel Aviv. The coaches they brought in and the players they signed. It is a shame such a pro is leaving our country.”