Eyal Berkovic was unveiled as Hapoel Tel Aviv’s new manager on Thursday evening and lived up to his billing as one of the most entertaining men in Israeli soccer.
The 42-year-old, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest Israeli players of all time, has spent recent years working in the media and running a soccer school in Nesher, after lasting only a couple of months as the manager of Maccabi Netanya in 2006.
Berkovic’s ostentatious nature ensured his services were always in demand in the media and there is unlikely to be a dull moment at Hapoel for as long as he’s at the club.
Berkovic gave a taste of things to come in Thursday’s press conference, promising to lead the club back to prominence before adding that he will join the fans in booing the team should it disappoint.
“I came to work at Hapoel for one reason - I have had enough of talking,” said Berkovic. “Since I retired, I have only been talking because that was my job. I decided to come to Hapoel because I want to be on the pitch with the players and staff and want to enjoy my love for soccer. I’m facing a lot of work and I know it won’t be simple. But I love challenges and this is a very big challenge.”
Nevertheless, Berkovic was characteristically confident that he can lead Hapoel to success despite its financial struggles.
“I have no doubt that if I will be given time and be allowed to build the team the way I want to we will succeed,” he explained before revealing that the club’s budget will be NIS 28 million, less than a third of that of champion Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“I would be stupid if I came out and said that we are going to win a title because I don’t even know yet who will be playing for us.”
New head coach Asi Domb, who will work under Berkovic, was also at the press conference, but he took a backseat to the new manager on Thursday, a scene which is likely to be repeated throughout the season.
Berkovic said he has complete faith in Domb before revealing that he had already offered Yossi Benayoun to join Hapoel. He also specified the team’s targets for 2014/15.
“Our goal is to finish in second place and win all the derby matches,” said Berkovic in typical style.