Beitar Jerusalem’s Yossi Benayoun.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
In his worst nightmares, Yossi Benayoun never imagined his illustrious career would end at Maccabi Petah Tikva. However, that looks set to be the case after the 37-year-old signed a one-and-a-half-year deal with Petah Tikva on Tuesday, completing a move from Beitar Jerusalem.
The veteran midfielder had hoped to finish his career at Beitar, which he joined just this past summer. But that was never going to happen once he got on the wrong side of club owner Eli Tabib due to his complaints regarding his lack of playing time.
Benayoun’s popularity among the Jerusalem fans combined with his growing frustration caused a constant distraction at the club. His already small role completely vanished over recent months and after he didn’t even play a single minute in the State Cup round-of-16 win over Hapoel Marmorek last Thursday in a match which saw Beitar field several second- string players, it became clear that Benayoun no longer had a future at the club. He bid an emotional farewell to his teammates and the fans in Saturday’s training session, but never had any good options elsewhere.
After Hapoel Haifa decided to prioritize the signing of Gili Vermouth from Maccabi Haifa, a deal which was completed on Monday, Petah Tikva was basically his only reasonable choice. Petah Tikva, which is in eighth place, is guided by Sharon Mimer, who was the Beitar coach when Benayoun was signed last summer.
Playing in front of mostly empty stands in Petah Tikva is a far cry from what Benayoun has been used to throughout his career, which is undoubtedly one of the greatest in the history of Israeli soccer.
Benayoun, who is joining his fourth team in three seasons, left Maccabi Tel Aviv after just one year last summer. He was told that he would likely receive a diminished role at Maccabi under new coach Jordi Cruyff in 2017/18, and after he hadn’t received an offer for a new contract, he decided to move on.
After playing in Europe for 12 consecutive seasons, including for the likes of English Premier League giants Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, Benayoun returned to Israel in the summer of 2014 to join Maccabi Haifa.
He was supposed to retire and receive a position in the club’s front office after two seasons, but instead ended up leaving for Tel Aviv in acrimonious fashion.
Maccabi Tel Aviv was reluctant to extend Benayoun’s stay beyond a single season, allowing Beitar to add him to its squad. His stay at Beitar ended up being a complete fiasco and he is hoping that at least he will be able to enjoy playing on a regular basis once more at Petah Tikva as his career draws to a close.
Benayoun has yet to decide whether he will play beyond this season, but he insisted on receiving a contract until the end of the 2018/19 campaign to ensure he would have that option. He also had little time to make a decision, with the January transfer window to come to a close on Wednesday.
Beitar strengthened its squad on Tuesday with the signing of Slovakian striker Jakub Sylvestr. The 28-year-old left Danish club Aalborg at the start of the month and will be joining Beitar on a free transfer.