(photo credit: MACCABI HAIFA WEBSITE)
Yossi Benayoun will play for Maccabi Haifa for the next two seasons after coming to an agreement with the club less than 24 hours after both the team and the player announced he wouldn’t be returning to the Greens.
Benayoun and Haifa released separate statements on Thursday evening explaining that negotiations had broken down and that the 34-year-old legend will not be joining the side. Benayoun wished the team luck and wrote that he considers himself free to join another Israeli club after first giving Haifa the right of refusal the way he had always promised.
The club released a one-sentence statement announcing that it has decided to pass on the option of signing the midfielder.
However, a phone conversation on Friday afternoon between Haifa owner Jacob Shachar and Benayoun changed everything.
Shachar had called Benayoun to explain that there was no intention of offending him in Thursday’s press release. The phone call broke the ice between the parties and within hours a two-year deal - brokered by club vice president Uzi Mor and Benayoun’s agent, Avi Nimni - was announced.
“We are happy to welcome Yossi back to the team and to the league,” said Shachar, with Benayoun set to earn around $500,000 per season.
“I’m happy to be back wearing the Green shirt,” added Benayoun.
Haifa will enter the new Sammy Ofer Stadium next season and the addition of Benayoun should go a long way to helping fill the 30,000 seats after a disappointing 2013/14 campaign.
Benayoun was a fan favorite while playing for Haifa between 1998 and 2002, leading the club to two straight championships before leaving for Racing Santander of the Spanish league.
He moved on to the English Premier League and played at West Ham United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, with his last stop being at QPR, helping the London club gain promotion to the top flight last month.