There was one word that kept resurfacing when a beaming Mitch Goldhar shared his thoughts with the media on Monday night after seeing Maccabi Tel Aviv clinch its first Premier League championship in 10 years.
“Everything is a process,” explained the Jewish Canadian billionaire. “This is the result of the process,” added the 51-year-old, who has owned the club for the past four years.
Time and again, Goldhar emphasized the challenging process the organization had to endure to reach this stage, as well as the ongoing development at the club.
To someone watching Goldhar for the first time, he seemed almost like a man obsessed. But Goldhar has been preaching about the process since Day 1 and on Monday he finally held a piece of silverware in his hands to prove that his vision was correct.
However, a single championship is just one step rather than the end goal for Goldhar.
He has far bigger plans.
“I certainly thought we were contenders,” said Goldhar when asked of the team’s targets at the start of the season. “But I really was more concerned with how we developed as an organization and as a club. I always felt it is a process and it still is a process.
“It’s not over. If we stick to the process we will eventually slowly emerge as a force. I believe that with time we will continue to develop a stronger team, but I think we have a long way to go. We are starting to see the fruits of some of the labor which is very exciting.”
A return to the glory days seemed to be just around the corner when Goldhar purchased the club. Maccabi’s budget has been the biggest in the league in each of the past four seasons, but the yellow-and-blue was no more than a bystander in recent title races.
The evolution of the club under Goldhar may have taken longer than expected, but by the process of trial and error, Maccabi finally found its way.
And unlike the likes of Beitar Jerusalem’s Arkadi Gaydamak – the typical foreign owner in Israeli soccer who, like Icarus, flew too close to the sun due to hubris – the level-headed Goldhar has proven that he has a clear plan for the club and he intends on sticking to it.
Maccabi may have won a record 20th championship on Monday, but it has claimed just two league titles since 1996 and only five in the last 34 years.
Maccabi Haifa, for example, has already snatched seven championships since the turn of the century.
Goldhar wants to build a dynasty in Tel Aviv and this season gives him the foundation to do so.
His decision last summer to bring in Jordi Cruyff to the newly created position of sporting director and sign the inexperienced Oscar Garcia as coach was met with many raised eyebrows.
However, both have been resounding positives in their debut season with the club and retaining their services will be paramount to continued success.
There seems to be little doubt that Cruyff will continue to make the important professional decisions in the coming year, but the same can’t be said about Garcia. The soon-to-be 40-year-old, who spent the previous two seasons coaching the Barcelona youth team, said on Monday that he “wants to stay” and that he’s “happy” at Maccabi.
However, he has already attracted attention from bigger clubs in Europe and could be lured away by a lucrative offer.
While the likes of Gal Alberman (30), Yoav Ziv (32) and Rade Prica (32) might be on the backend of their careers, the core of Maccabi’s squad is in its prime and assuming there are no dramatic departures in the summer, Cruyff will only be looking to fine tune the roster rather than make wholesale changes.
“There’s always room for improvement,” said Cruyff on Monday.
“This is the first step. It gives credibility to the project. My job starts very soon to plan for next season. It’s not easy sometimes, but I’m focused already for next season.”
Besides retaining the league title, Maccabi’s next big goal will be to reach the Champions League group stage.
The yellow-and-blue will begin its qualifying campaign in the second round in mid-July and will likely be unseeded in the third round, as well as the subsequent playoffs – should it make it that far – meaning it could face tricky ties against the likes of Scotland’s Celtic.
Regardless, Goldhar is expected to increase the club’s budget this summer in the hope of translating the success achieved in Israel this season to the continental stage.
Plenty will need to work in Maccabi’s favor to reach the group stage, luck included.
But whether Tel Aviv participates in the most illustrious competition in European soccer next season doesn’t seem to be all that crucial to the club’s future.
Goldhar is going nowhere and there is no reason to question his promise to continue investing in the club.
Sooner is obviously better than later, but the path to glory has been set and time looks to be the only thing standing between Maccabi and the realization of its dreams.