The clearout at Maccabi Tel Aviv took a surprise twist on Friday when the club notified striker Barak Itzhaki that he is not in the team’s plans for next season.

The 27-year-old arrived at Maccabi in the summer of 2010 with much fanfare after moving from Betar Jerusalem for a transfer fee estimated to be in the region of $2 million while being handed a lucrative five-year deal.

However, he missed almost all of his debut season for the yellow-and-blue after tearing his cruciate ligaments in the team’s first Premier League match and never quite regained full fitness since.

Nevertheless, Friday’s development was unexpected, with Itzhaki being named as Maccabi’s captain last season and showing some encouraging signs by scoring nine goals in 27 league games.

“The announcement caught Barak by complete surprise,” said Itzhaki’s agent Ronen Katzav, who was told of Maccabi’s decision over the phone by new sports director Jordi Cruyff.

“This decision can not be changed and Barak will leave the club. Maccabi Tel Aviv said it would support the player in every decision he makes, and despite the extreme pain Barak is feeling, he has nothing against anyone at the club which he captained.

“The departure will take place in a good and friendly spirit.”

Itzhaki follows in the footsteps of defenders Savo Pavicevic and Nivaldo, who had already been told that they will not be continuing.

The news of Itzhaki’s exit came at the end of a week in which Cruyff and new Spanish coach Oscar Garcia signed their first two players to the squad.

It came as little surprise that Oscar started off by bringing in two of his countrymen, with both of which he shares his surname.

Cruyff knows exactly what he is getting in 28-year-old midfielder Gonzalo Garcia, who played under the Dutchman at AEK Larnaca in Cyprus last season, scoring 12 goals in 23 matches.

“Gonzalo is a fascinating attacking player who can play in different positions,” Cruyff said.

“He played well every time I saw him and he has the exact characteristics we are looking for.”

Defender Carlos Garcia, 28, played for all of Spain’s national youth teams, and joins from UD Almeria of Spain’s second division at which he played every minute of last season’s league campaign.

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