(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Eyal Berkovic is set to be named as the new Hapoel Tel Aviv manager after the club parted ways with coach Ran Ben-Shimon on Monday.
The 42-year-old Berkovic, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest Israeli soccer players of all time, worked as the Maccabi Netanya manager for a couple of months following his retirement back in the summer of 2006.
However, he didn’t last long at the club and has since spent his time running a soccer school in Nesher and working in the media.
After a frustrating season at Hapoel, Ben-Shimon and club boss Haim Ramon agreed to go their separate ways on Monday due to the club’s struggles, financial and otherwise.
Ben-Shimon’s assistant coach, Asi Domb, is expected to be officially named as the team’s new head coach on Tuesday and work under Berkovic.
Domb’s only previous experience as a head coach came at Hapoel Kfar Saba of the National League, with his tenure lasting only three months in 2012 before he joined Hapoel as an assistant in January 2013.
Ben-Shimon signed a two-year contract last summer, with Hapoel looking to mount a serious challenge for the championship.
Hapoel completely overhauled its squad, bringing in 12 new senior players in the off-season, including star striker Itay Shechter, to join a team which already included the likes of Israel internationals Gili Vermut and Omer Damari.
After one season of self-imposed exile in Cyprus, Ben-Shimon was hoping to build on the historic championship he won at Ironi Kiryat Shmona in 2011/12.
However, Hapoel’s season quickly unraveled, with the side suffering a surprise early exit in the Europa League before recording just five wins from its first 15 league matches to lose all hope of fighting for the title.
Tel Aviv played its best soccer of the season in the final stretch, eventually finishing in fourth place and qualifying for the Europa League.
Ben-Shimon agreed to a significant decrease in his salary in order to continue at the club, but chose to leave on Monday as Ramon wanted him to accept a cut of around 50 percent.
Berkovic began his career with Maccabi Haifa in 1990 and joined English Premier League side Southampton in the 1995/96 season.
He would move on to West Ham United before signing for Scotland’s Celtic.
Berkovic, who made 78 appearances for the Israel national team, would also go on to play for Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City and Portsmouth, before eventually deciding to return to Israel to end his career at Maccabi Tel Aviv.