(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Tal Ben-Haim signed a four-year contract with Czech club Sparta Prague on Monday, completing one of the most lucrative deals in Israeli soccer history and leaving Maccabi Tel Aviv with the task of replacing one of its best players for a second straight summer.
The Israel national team winger, not to be mistaken with the veteran defender with the same name, was purchased for 2.9 million euros, with Sparta activating the release clause in his contract. The 27-year-old is set to earn in the region of one million euros per season in Prague, making him the highest paid player in the Czech league. Sparta is the most successful club in Czech soccer history, but it hasn’t won the local championship since 2013/14.
Ben-Haim moved from Hapoel Tel Aviv to Maccabi Tel Aviv in the summer of 2013.
He won two championships and a State Cup in his first two seasons with the club before experiencing two trophy-less campaigns in the past two years. Maccabi Petah Tikva, which sold Ben-Haim to Hapoel Tel Aviv in the summer of 2012, will receive 145,000 euros as it retained a five percent stake of any future deal. It missed out on a far bigger payday after selling the yellowand- blue an additional 20 percent stake for 250,000 euros last year, less than half of what it would have received had it maintained its holding for another year.
Ben-Haim’s move comes almost exactly one year to the day that Eran Zahavi left Maccabi for Guangzhou in China.
While Ben-Haim’s significance to the team doesn’t rival that of Zahavi’s prior to his departure, new head coach Jordi Cruyff will not find it easy to fill his shoes. One player mentioned in connection with a move to the club is Maccabi Petah Tikva’s Giddy Kanyuk, who is coming off a breakthrough season.
Maccabi’s squad returned from its short training camp in Austria on Monday as it continues its buildup for Thursday’s Europa League first qualifying round first leg against Tirana of Albania in Netanya.
Champion Hapoel Beersheba doesn’t begin its 2017/18 campaign for two weeks when it hosts Honved of Hungary in the first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round.
Beersheba is currently holding a training camp in Poland and claimed a 2-1 win over local side Zaglebie Lubin in a pre-season encounter on Monday. Mohammad Ghadir scored both of Beersheba’s goals, with the winner coming four minutes from time.
“The goal of these matches is to see where we stand and what we can do better,” said coach Barak Bachar. “The players are working very hard and need to continue that way in order to improve.”
Beersheba has held on to almost all of its key players from last season, with the most notable departure being that of the injured Maor Buzaglo. The 29-year-old was set to sign a lucrative deal in Turkey after his contract ran out this summer, but suffered a serious knee injury in April that is expected to sideline him until January.
Buzaglo began his rehabilitation in Beersheba, but bid farewell to the club on Monday, with Maccabi Haifa likely to be his next destination.
“So this is it, the end of a beautiful period,” Buzaglo wrote on Instagram. “The house is all packed up in boxes and the memories are well secured in the head and mainly the heart. All that is left to say is thank you. Thank you to those who cheered, supported and gave me strength.
Thank you also to those who jeered from the other stands. I love you all and I’m already missing you - thank you Hapoel Beersheba.”
Beersheba is hoping to complete the signing of Spanish midfielder Isaac Cuenca in the coming days. The 26-year-old has 16 appearances to his name from his time at Barcelona and played for Granada CF in La Liga last season.