Former Israel captain Yossi Benayoun is expected to complete his move to Maccabi Tel Aviv this week, leaving Maccabi Haifa after two seasons..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Yossi Benayoun’s move to Maccabi Tel Aviv is set to be made official this week, with the 36-year-old midfielder to sign a one-year deal with the yellow-and-blue. Benayoun has already undergone a medical and agreed personal terms with Maccabi, which is hoping to unveil its new recruit with its new coach, once it signs one.
Benayoun spent the past two seasons at Maccabi Haifa, leaving the club in acrimonious fashion. He helped the Greens to their first title in five years and first State Cup in 18 years in his final match for the team, but revealed after the cup final that Haifa had asked him to leave last September following the side’s poor start to the season and the subsequent unrest in the dressing room. According to Benayoun, it was owner Jacob Shachar who asked him to go, but after speaking with coach Roni Levy the two came to an agreement that if either one were forced to leave the club the other would follow suit. Unhappy with the way he was treated by the Greens, Benayoun already told the club in February that he will be leaving this summer, with Maccabi Tel Aviv always the likely destination.
“I came to Haifa with the intention of ending my career here, but things change in soccer,” said Benayoun after the cup final. “There is no other player in Israel who would have coped with what I coped with this season.”
Benayoun, who was a fan favorite while playing for Haifa between 1998 and 2002, returned to the club two years ago after spending 12 seasons in Europe. He joined Racing Santander of the Spanish league in 2012 before moving on to the English Premier League, playing at West Ham United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, with his last stop being at QPR.
Tel Aviv will be hoping Benayoun doesn’t need to help replace Eran Zahavi, who has received a massive offer from Guangzhou of the Chinese league. Zahavi, who has led the Premier League in scoring in each of the past three seasons, breaking the 61-year-old record for goals in a season with 35 last term, could earn an estimated $15 million over the next two-and-a-half years playing in China, with Guangzhou willing to pay Maccabi $5 million for his services.
Zahavi already turned down a lucrative offer from China last season and Maccabi is confident he will do so once more after the the yellow-and-blue made him the highest earning player in Israeli soccer history last summer with a contract extension that earns him over one million dollars a year.