(photo credit: AP)
National soccer team captain Yossi Benayoun ended speculation about his future on Friday by signing a five-year contract that could keep him at English Premier League club West Ham United until 2012.
"I'm very pleased to have agreed this new deal," the midfielder told West Ham's official Web site. "From the first moment I arrived at West Ham, the club felt like home to me. We have the best supporters in England.
"The natural thing for me was to sign a new deal and I'm very happy because I want to stay at this club. I'm sure we'll have a better season next year because we have players with a lot of quality. We will also have new players coming in to make us stronger and better.
"I'm very pleased because it is the best place for me."
The 27-year-old, who was signed from Spain's Racing Santander in July 2005 for 2.5 million, played an important role in helping West Ham escape relegation from the Premier League this season and was key in the team's UEFA Cup qualification last year.
Benayoun's new contract is rumored to be in the region of 55,000 a week, which would make it the biggest ever for an Israeli soccer player.
"The chairman is very ambitious and I want to thank him because the negotiations were very quick," said Benayoun. "He and the manager showed me they wanted me to stay immediately. Hopefully I will pay them back on the pitch and I will do everything in my power to match their ambition."
Hammers chairman Eggert Magnusson said, "We are very ambitious and Yossi is a big part of our plans. I'm very pleased to have agreed terms to keep him at the club for five more years.
"We are looking forward to bringing in exciting new signings but we must also make sure we keep hold of the hugely talented players we already have."