Sahar’s star showing serious signs of flickering

Can the player once considered the future of Israeli soccer resurrect his career at Hapoel TA?

By
August 4, 2010 14:29
3 minute read.
BEN SAHAR appears happy to be back at Hapoel Tel Aviv, however the supremely talented 20-year-old Is

Ben Sahar 311. (photo credit: Hapoel Tel Aviv Web site)

 
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Ben Sahar may only be turning 21 next week, but his career is on the brink of reaching the point of no return.

Three years ago Sahar was considered to be the brightest prospect in Israeli soccer since Yossi Benayoun, with many tipping him to match and even surpass the achievements of the diamond from Dimona.

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However, while Benayoun managed his career to perfection, Sahar has stumbled at every crossroad and now finds himself having to resurrect a reputation ruined by years of wrong decisions.

On Tuesday, Sahar started his first match for Hapoel Tel Aviv in the return leg of the Champions League third qualifying round against FK Aktobe at Bloomfield Stadium. That may be the highlight of a career for some players, but had you told Sahar a couple of years ago that he would be back playing in Jaffa in the heat of the summer so soon he would have laughed in your face.

Sahar was supposed to be somewhere else altogether at this stage of his career.

After moving to the Chelsea youth team in May 2006, the striker made his debut for the English Premier League giant at the age of 17 in January of 2007 and lit the imagination of all Israeli soccer fans.

After all, if he made his Chelsea debut at such a tender age there surely is no limits to his potential.



A month later he became the youngest Israeli to play for the national team, a feat since surpassed by Gai Assulin, before becoming the youngest to score for the blue-and-white when he netted twice in Euro 2008 qualification several weeks later.

However, nothing has gone right for the youngster since.

Sahar ended up only playing a total of 107 minutes in five substitute appearances for Chelsea in the 2006/07 season before beginning a seemingly endless nomadic journey, of which Tel Aviv is the seventh stop.

Loan spells at Championship clubs Queens Park Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday in the 2007/08 campaign were partly successful, but Sahar only managed to score four league goals in 21 appearances in the English second division.

A disastrous six-month loan at Portsmouth ended with Sahar failing to make a single appearance and was followed by another six-month spell at Dutch club De Graafschap where he scored five goals in 16 showings.

Sahar looked completely lost, but there was a glimmer of hope last summer after Spanish La Liga club Espanyol agreed to part with £1million to bring him over from Chelsea.

It wouldn’t take him long, however, to realize that Espanyol had no intention of giving him the precious playing time he needs at this stage of his career.

Sahar scored a single goal in 22 league appearances at the Barcelona club, starting in just five games. That left him with an unenviable decision to make this summer.

Tel Aviv, the club at which he learned his profession as a youth player, was desperate for him to return to Israel, with coach Eli Gutman speaking to Sahar on a daily basis in an attempt to convince him he must move to a club where he will play regularly.

However, Sahar also knew that he will have to take a significant pay cut and that his ticket to Israel could prove to be one-way, as often seems to be the case with local players who failed to make their mark across the ocean.

Eventually, Sahar went with his gut instinct and came to the conclusion that home comfort is exactly what he needs to breathe new life into his career.

But has Sahar finally made the right decision? There seem to be 1,000 different opinions on the matter and as always it is only time which will tell.

One thing is for sure, however.

Hapoel fans and Israeli soccer as a whole should be praying Sahar’s career is about to take off because the alternative is something neither can afford.

allon@jpost.com

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