(photo credit: AP)
It's been a dream week for Tal Ben-Haim. Not only did the 25-year-old Israeli get married on Sunday, but three days earlier he made the dream move to Chelsea FC - one of the biggest, richest and most ambitious soccer clubs in the world.
But while the glamor transfer may appear to be perfect for our Tal (he will be earning around 60,000 pounds a week), the reality may prove to be all too different. Is it possible that Ben-Haim can have a dream season?
As much as he is happy with the new situation, BenHaim must still be wishing it had all happened five months ago.
Back in January Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was desperate to bring a quality defender to Stamford Bridge after first choice center back and club captain John Terry was sidelined with a back injury.
Ben-Haim was reportedly Mourinho's number one choice but according to reports Chelsea's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich refused to pay the 5 million pounds Bolton Wanderers was asking for the Israeli. The deal was therefore put off till the summer after Ben-Haim's contract with Bolton expired, allowing him to move to Stamford Bridge on a "free" transfer, saving Roman a lot of money.
If Ben-Haim had been allowed to move south to London in January there's little doubt he would have found himself a first team regular for most of the second half of the season.
Terry was back in the team in February but then suffered an ankle injury forcing Mourinho to play midfielder Michael Essien in defense. It would have been an ideal opportunity for Ben-Haim to make his mark and impress the bosses.
The situation is very different now, and, as good as he is, it is going to be very difficult for the Israeli to break his way into the Chelsea first team. Not only does he have Terry and Ricardo Carvalho to get past, but Mourninho has already brought in Brazilian defender Alex.
Chelsea has a reputation for buying quality players and keeping them on the substitutes bench. The classic example is Shaun Wright Phillips, the skillful English midfielder who moved to the blues from Manchester City in 2005 but made few appearances in the starting 11 for Chelsea.
Others, such as Jiri Jarosik, were much hyped on their arrival but hardly played a game for Chelsea before being farmed out on loan and then sold.
The lucky thing for BenHaim is that the Chelsea of 2007 is not the Chelsea of 2005. As seen with the Israeli's transfer, Abramovich has been tightening the purse strings and is unlikely to pay ridiculous sums of money for superstars this summer. Chelsea is beginning to change its image from a glamor team to a hard working side.
Ben-Haim is an honest, tough, player who will put in the graft. As long has he works hard in training and shows off the skills that attracted Mourinho's interest in the first place, there's no reason why he won't be given his chance.
The fact is that Carvalho is 29, not a young man. BenHaim is at the top of his game and at his prime age. So, just maybe it will be the Israeli who takes his place in the first 11 come the start of the Champions League in September. And how proud that would make us Israelis back home feel.
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