Assulin will come to rue his decision to sign with Man City

Gai Assulin completes move to Roberto Mancini’s team, signing a two-and-a-half year deal.

December 15, 2010 07:35
4 minute read.
Gai Assulin.

Assulin 311. (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)

Signing for Manchester City has become the dream of many modern players.

After all, who wouldn’t want to join the richest club in the world, which has spent well over £300 million in transfer fees alone since the takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group in August 2008?

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Gai Assulin realized this aspiration on Monday when, after a couple of months of training at the club, he finally completed his move to Roberto Mancini’s team, signing a two-and-a-half year deal.

However, at perhaps the most crucial stage of his career, the 19- year-old Israeli has made the worst possible decision, and it may well take him many years to overcome the consequences.

City can offer Assulin virtually everything, other than the one thing he really needs.

Assulin’s potential is limitless, but in order to fulfill it he needs to play as much as possible to hone his skills in real-game situations, something not possible on the training ground.

City’s name may look nice on his resume, but just like he found himself settling for the B team in Barcelona, Assulin will have to be content on the reserve side in Manchester instead of playing meaningful soccer at a vital time in his development as a player.

Assulin’s talents were obvious from early on and in 2003, at the young age of 12, he left Betar Nes Tubrok’s youth department for Barcelona’s fabled youth academy at La Masia.

In August 2007, he was handed his first professional contract, signing a three-year deal.

He spent almost the entire period playing with Barcelona B, which is part of the Spanish second division, making 67 appearances and scoring 16 goals.

Assulin made his first-team debut in a Copa del Rey match against Cultural Leonesa in October 2009, but those 56 minutes ended up being his only action as a senior Barca player.

The club and player announced in July that by mutual consent Assulin’s contract would not be renewed, on the one hand ending his hope of becoming a full-fledged player at one of the world’s top clubs, but on the other giving him the opportunity to determine where he went next as a free agent.

It is easy to understand Assulin’s wish to join one the wealthiest clubs in European soccer, but by doing so he may well have derailed his career.

Assulin said he had other offers, but obviously none attractive enough, as he remained unsigned at the end of the August transfer window.

Assulin’s patience – and perhaps also the connections of his agent Pini Zahavi – eventually resulted in a contract offer from Man City, but he would have been far better off looking elsewhere, learning from Ben Sahar’s bitter experience.

Just like Assulin, Sahar was earmarked as the future of Israeli soccer, with City’s new attacking midfielder breaking the latter’s record when he became the youngest player capped for the national team two weeks before his 17th birthday in March 2008.

Assulin hasn’t played for Israel since, and with little first-team soccer to look forward to in Manchester, may not appear for the blue-and-white again any time soon.

Sahar also joined a top club as a teenager, moving to the Chelsea youth team in May 2006.

However, he made just three first-team appearances for the English powerhouse, and was sent out on four separate loan spells, none of them very successful.

Spanish club Espanyol eventually signed him in the summer of 2009, but he also failed to settle in La Liga and now finds himself trying to resurrect his career on loan at Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Assulin could well be going down the same path.

Don’t get me wrong, the Nahariya native is an excellent player with rare skills. But he is simply not good enough at the moment to make the City team, which even players like Emmanuel Adebayor, who was brought in from Arsenal for a transfer fee believed to be in the region of £25 million, struggle to break into.

The likes of Ronnie Rosenthal, Eyal Berkovic and Yossi Benayoun all succeeded in Europe by taking it one stage at a time, starting at smaller clubs before moving on to better places with a proven reputation.

Assulin should have done the same.

Obviously, Assulin is entitled to make any decision he likes and hopefully he will quickly prove me wrong and go on to become a key member at City.

However, assuming that is not the case, his time in Manchester will be more like a nightmare than a dream, and both he and Israeli soccer as a whole will bemoan the waste of a talent only rarely bestowed on this country.

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