Maccabi Tel Aviv's off-season changeover has begun. The club has replaced Dutch coach Ton Caanen with veteran Eli Cohen, who inked a one-year deal with the club. Caanen will guide the team for the last time in Thursday's charity fixture against Boca Juniors.
The yellow-and-blue squad has had a disappointing centenary season, with the Galacticos project yielding very poor results and the team failing to achieve any of its domestic objectives. Even the firing of Nir Klinger and appointment of Caanen proved unfruitful, with the club finishing in the disappointing sixth place in the league table and failing to qualify for European competition.
Cohen has a respectable record in the Premier League, having coached Betar Jerusalem, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa. The highlight of his career was a championship with Eli Ohana and Betar Jerusalem in the 1996/97 season. He also guided Hapoel Tel Aviv to a State Cup win two seasons later.
Speaking after the deal was officially sealed on Tuesday, Cohen said: "Maccabi Tel Aviv is a big club and it will continue to be one next season. It is difficult to get used to a low budget at Maccabi but we will have to work hard and find the right foreign players."
Cohen has had his share of controversies, with the most noticeable occurring when Yossi Benayoun, whom he coached at Maccabi Haifa in 1999/00 season, refused to be substituted during a State Cup game. Cohen was sacked before the end of that season due to poor interpersonal relations with his players.
"I felt that the club needed a change and probably an Israeli coach is what this club needs," team president Loni Herzikovic said. "I also want to thank Ton Caanen for his five-month long service at the club and we all wish him all the best in the future."
With key players Eyal Berkovic, Liran Strauber, Gal Nir and Ofir Haim leaving for Maccabi Netanya over the last few days, Cohen will have his work cut out as he will have to find replacements with a very limited budget for new signings.
Cohen will reportedly earn $70,000, with the possibility to make another $20,000 in bonuses. Reports have Cohen interested in signing Romanian Adrain Pito, who played for Bnei Sakhnin last season and forward Itai Shekhter from Upper Nazareth.