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(photo credit: )
Gili Vermut’s journey to becoming the best player in the Israeli Premier League
has been anything but conventional.
The 25-year-old is built in the mold
of playmakers Yossi Benayoun and Eyal Berkovic, but unlike the Benayouns and
Berkovics of the world, he had to wait until his mid-20s to realize his
Vermut’s talent was never a secret, but he struggled to make
his breakthrough as a teenager. It wasn’t until last season that everything fell
into place for the Kiryat Yam native, allowing him to finally fulfill his
promise and lead Hapoel Tel Aviv to a Premier League and State Cup
On Wednesday, he will be Hapoel’s X-factor in its matchup against
Red Bull Salzburg in the first leg of the Champions League playoffs in
Tel Aviv will need a strong team effort to return to Bloomfield
Stadium for the return leg with a favorable result. And Vermut has the most
important role to play – he’s the maestro who orchestrates coach Eli Gutman’s
When Vermut is at his best, Tel Aviv’s free-flowing
and attacking play is a joy to behold. But Vermut’s ability to make his
teammates play better can also work against the side when he’s experiencing an
Like an orchestra without a conductor, the entire team’s play
suffers when Vermut’s under par – something it can not afford if it’s to reach
the group stage of European soccer’s most prestigious competition for the first
time in club history.
Vermut came through the Hapoel Haifa youth system
and made his debut for the team in the 2003/04 season.
He joined Tel Aviv
in 2005, but in his first two seasons with the Reds he was just another squad
member, which should be unthinkable for a player of his aptitude.
summers ago he left Hapoel for Belgian club K.A.A. Gent, a surprising move
considering his mediocre performances in the Premier League.
anything but a shock when he returned to the Reds after just one season in
The change of scenery might not have worked, but the guidance of
Gutman bore fruit almost immediately.
Vermut showed significant
improvement in the 2008/09 campaign and was unstoppable last season.
first glance, Vermut is anything but special.
But when he flashes his
super-quick first step and outrageous body fakes, combined with his remarkable
ball control, he becomes an irresistable force.
Like Benayoun and
Berkovic, Vermut still has plenty of room for improvement with his shooting, but
who needs to shoot when you can waltz your way into the back of the net? Nine
league goals as well as four strikes in the cup – two of them in the final –
marked Vermut’s return last season, a total he will be looking to improve in the
However, creating goals is his real expertise, with the
midfield magician passing 23 assists last season, including seven in 12 matches
in the Europa League.
The big stage seems to bring out the best in
Vermut, but in order to get to the biggest stage European soccer has to offer,
he will first have to take his team past a tricky Salzburg side.
be anything but easy, but Vermut has waited far longer than expected to get this
chance, and this could well be his finest email@example.com