It isn’t summer without a transfer saga in the Israeli Premier League, with national team striker Omer Damari at the center of this season’s bidding wars.
After being linked in recent months with multiple moves abroad and in Israel, Hapoel Tel Aviv announced on Sunday that the 25-year-old, who scored 26 goals in the league last season, signed a new contract with the club.
“I followed my heart,” said Damari. “Hapoel is my home and I’ll leave only if I receive an offer from Europe which will help the club and myself.”
Damari’s new contract also includes a clause which forbids him from leaving Hapoel for another Israeli club.
However, there was another twist in the plot on Monday after Amos Luzon, the head of Maccabi Petah Tikva - which still retains a 50 percent stake of Damari - demanded that Hapoel transfer Petah Tikva four million shekels or allow him to leave for another club.
According to Luzon, Maccabi Tel Aviv offered 1.5 million euros for the striker’s services, while Hapoel Beersheba agreed to pay eight million shekels.
Luzon, whose club retained a 50 percent stake when Damari left Petah Tikva for Hapoel three years ago, called for the new contract to be canceled by noon on Monday, claiming that his initial agreement with Hapoel holds precedent.
“Omer is an important asset for the club and I have no doubt he will remain a red because his heart is red,” said Hapoel manager Eyal Berkovic. “He only wants to play for Hapoel in Israel and if he will leave it will only be for a team abroad.”
A Hapoel club statement added: “Players are not properties and they have their wishes, thoughts and aspirations, even if they don’t coincide with Amos Luzon’s financial interests. You can’t force a player to do something against his wishes. Omer only wants to play for Hapoel in Israel.”