Less than three months after he rejoined the club on a two-year deal and before the Premier League season has even begun, coach Oscar Garcia left Maccabi Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning due to the current security situation.
Oscar, who returned to the club for a second stint earlier this summer, informed owner Mitch Goldhar of his decision recently and spoke to the players before Tuesday’s training session, notifying them that he will be stepping down together with assistants Ruben Martinez and Fran Sanchez.
Oscar will be replaced by a fellow Spaniard, 51-year-old Pako Ayestaran.
Ayestaran spent the last two seasons as manager of Mexican side Estudiantes Tecos and was previously an assistant coach at Valencia (2009-2010, 2001- 2004), Benfica (2008-2009), Liverpool (2004-2007) and Tenerife (2000-2001).
During his time in Spain and England as the assistant to Rafa Benitez, Ayestaran, won promotion to the Spanish top flight with Tenerife, won two Spanish League titles and a UEFA Cup with Valencia, and claimed the Champions League and FA Cup with Liverpool.
The 41-year-old Oscar had previously left Maccabi just two days after its final match of the 2012/13 campaign, explaining that “some circumstances in life transcend professional matters and I have been forced to suddenly take this decision.”
Oscar never hid the fact that one of the main reasons for his first departure was his wish to be closer to Spain and his two daughters from his first marriage, especially with the concern raised by his family during Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.
He traveled to Israel with his wife and three daughters, including his two older daughters from his first marriage, to select his new apartment ahead of his return to the club this summer. However, the renewed hostilities with Hamas resulted in his departure once more, this time before the league season has even begun.
“I would like to thank Oscar for everything he has done for Maccabi Tel Aviv FC,” said owner Goldhar.
“When we appointed Oscar as coach we did so knowing exactly what the club meant to him and that his heart was in the right place. And it was. However, circumstances have led to a change of plan, as such things do happen in life. We will soldier on with our mission at Maccabi thinking fondly of Oscar and wishing him well in the future.”
On Ayestaran Goldhar said: “Of the numerous candidates and offers for the role, we chose Pako and Pako chose us.
Pako was highly recommended and left a great impression on me during the conversations we had.
“Being the coach of Maccabi is a great challenge, as we have high demands and expectations from the job. But Pako appears to be an excellent match for Maccabi and we hope that everyone in the Maccabi family will give him a warm welcome.”
Sporting director Jordi Cruyff said he knew of Oscar’s decision for some time.
“Life goes on,” said a downcast looking Cruyff in a hastily organized press conference at Maccabi’s training complex in Kiryat Shalom. “The club will continue and we hope the transition will be a smooth one.
“Some things happen in life and we have to accept his personal decision, but we will move on.”
Cruyff confirmed that Ayestaran will be in the stadium for Maccabi’s Europa League playoff second leg against Asteras of Greece in Larnaca, Cyprus, on Thursday, but he will not guide the side.
Maccabi lost the first leg 2-0 in Greece.
Cruyff insisted that he has no intention of following Oscar out of the club and said he was confident Maccabi will quickly bounce back from Monday’s blow.
“When somebody makes a personal decision I cannot judge that. I can only respect that,” Cruyff said. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
We have to move on. We have a very important game on Thursday and we have to focus on that. These things happen and unfortunately it happened to us. Of course we are sad with what has happened, but we moved on and we reacted quickly. We are facing important games and we will focus on football.”