ISRAEL STRIKER Omer Damari’s (22) dream year, which included a goal against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Euro 2016 qualification in November (above), is set to result in a lucrative move to RB Leipzig of Germany’s 2. Bundesliga in the coming days..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
There is something somewhat misleading about Omer Damari’s play.
An untrained eye could follow him for an entire match and wonder what all the fuss is about.
Sure, he is certainly a decent player, but hardly anything special, one might conclude.
He doesn’t seem particularly fast, or especially strong. He has a good shot, but not one that seems out of the ordinary.
But any notion that Damari is just another commonplace Israeli soccer player could hardly be further from the truth.
The fact that little stands out in Damari’s game is not a testament to his mediocrity, but rather proof of his supremacy.
Over the past three years, and particularly over the last 12 months, the 25-year-old striker has shown that he is simply a superb all-around player.
He doesn’t really shine in one specific aspect, but rather excels in almost every facet of the game.
Barring an unexpected development, Damari will complete his transfer to RB Leipzig of 2. Bundesliga, the German second division, in the coming days for a transfer fee in the excess of five million euros.
Damari only left Israel for Austria Wien six months ago, but that is all the time he needed to make an impact before moving on to greener pastures.
He is set to earn over 700,000 euros a season before bonuses at Leipzig, which is fighting for promotion to the Bundesliga and has got major aspirations and the financial backing needed to realize them.
The club was taken over by energy drink corporation Red Bull in 2009 and has slowly but surely moved up the leagues after beginning life in the fifth German division.
Leipzig became the fourth soccer club to be owned by Red Bull, joining Red Bull Salzburg, New York Red Bulls and Red Bull Brasil. However, due to regulations in Germany not allowing the sponsor’s name to be part of the team name, the club instead adopted the odd name RasenBallsport Leipzig (“Leipzig lawn ball sports”) and uses the initials “RB” while incorporating elements of the Red Bull logo in the team logo.
Respected German manager Ralf Rangnick was named as the club’s sports director in 2012 and he is the man in charge of guiding the team to prominence.
Damari will not be Leipzig’s first signing of the January transfer window, with the club already wrapping up the addition of 23-year-old Swede Emil Forsberg for a transfer fee estimated at 3.7 million euros.
The club is likely to continue and spend as it aims to finish among the top two in the league and gain promotion for a third straight season.
Leipzig is currently in seventh place in the standings, but is only six points off second. The second German division is currently on its winter break, with play to resume in three weeks.
Following his sensational form in Austria, Damari’s name began popping up frequently in transfer rumors. However, at the start of December he was diagnosed with Mononucleosis, casting doubt over any possible move.
Nevertheless, he is set to complete his transfer to Leipzig after cementing his place as Israel’s top striker over the past year.
Damari, who began his career at Maccabi Petah Tikva before moving to Hapoel Tel Aviv in July 2011, was of course still an Hapoel player at the start of 2014. He scored nine goals in seven matches to begin the year, ultimately ending the season at Hapoel with 26 goals in 36 league games.
Austria Wien paid Hapoel just 1.6 million euro for his services last summer and he didn’t need long to settle at the club, scoring on his debut.
Before falling ill with Mono, Damari had already amassed eight goals in 13 league matches in Vienna as well as two goals in as many cup games.
After spending a couple of years on the national team without making much of an impression, Damari has proven over recent months that he is the perfect man to play the role of lone striker in coach Eli Gutman’s formation.
He is currently on a four-match scoring streak for the blue-and-white, which started in Israel’s friendly match against Honduras last June.
Damari is the joint leading scorer in Euro 2016 qualification with five goals from just three matches, netting a hattrick against Andorra while scoring once in the wins over Cyprus and Bosnia and Herzegovina to help Israel extend its perfect start to qualification.
All in all, Damari netted 34 goals in 41 matches over all competitions in 2014, despite missing the final month of the year.
The move to Leipzig is another significant step up in Damari’s career, and considering the progress he has made over the past 12 months, it is anyone’s guess what the coming year might bring.
One thing is for sure – no one would dare deem Damari a mediocre talent anymore.[email protected]