Vermouth switches Tel Aviv sides in shock move

Maccabi pries star midfielder from Hapoel on final day of transfer window; Maccabi Haifa, Sakhnin also busy.

New Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Gili Vermouth (left) was all smiles signing his new contract alongside sporting director Jordi Cruyff (right) after completing his shock (photo credit: MACCABI TEL AVIV WEBSITE)
New Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Gili Vermouth (left) was all smiles signing his new contract alongside sporting director Jordi Cruyff (right) after completing his shock
One day after playing for Hapoel Tel Aviv in the derby, Gili Vermouth left for Maccabi Tel Aviv on Tuesday in what was the highlight of a dramatic final day to the local transfer window.
The 29-year-old midfielder signed a three-and-a-half year contract with the yellow-and-blue, joining former Hapoel players Eran Zahavi and Tal Ben-Haim, who also moved to Maccabi in recent years.
Maccabi paid Hapoel 700,000 euro for Vermouth while also receiving Ben Reichert and Sean Goldberg on loan free of charge until the end of next season, as well as the rights of midfielder Omri Altman from 2015/16.
Hapoel, which was also given an option to loan Maccabi youngsters Mavis Tchibota and Lanry Kahinda over the next two seasons, said the deal is worth a total of 1.2 million euro.
Nevertheless, Hapoel fans were outraged by the move of their star player, protesting outside the club’s training complex and on social media.
Vermouth first joined the club from Hapoel Haifa in 2005, playing for Tel Aviv for two seasons before moving to Belgian club Gent. He returned to Hapoel after just one season and played a crucial role in the club’s march to a Premier League and State Cup double in 2009/10.
The Israel international left for Europe once more in 2011, signing with Kaiserslautern in Germany before returning to Hapoel yet again in 2012.
“I wanted to move to Maccabi Tel Aviv because it is the best thing for me at the present time and not because anyone forced me to do so,” Vermouth said on Tuesday.
“We are pleased to sign Gili, who will make an immediate impact on our team and is an important part of our forward planning,” added Maccabi sports director Jordi Cruyff.
A Hapoel statement said that the club only agreed to release Vermouth after he told owner Haim Ramon on Tuesday that he would like to leave.
“This deal will provide a critical sum that will help secure the financial and professional future of the club, which is more important than any player,” the statement read.
The Vermouth deal was the climax of a crazy closing day to what had been a previously quiet transfer window.
Maccabi Haifa completed the signing of Israel national team striker Itay Shechter from French club Nantes as expected, while also bringing in 35-year-old Spanish defender Abraham Paz on loan from Bnei Sakhnin.
Sakhnin received Mohammed Kalibat, Jaber Ataa and Ayid Habshi in return, also all on loan deals until the end of the season.
“I’m really happy to be returning to Israel and a big club like Maccabi Haifa,” said Shechter, who is set to team-up with fellow new face Eliran Atar in Haifa’s attack. “As soon as I knew that a club like Maccabi Haifa wanted me I had no doubts and I’m happy to be here.”
Striker Shimon Abu Hazeira left Haifa for Ironi Kiryat Shmona in a loan deal until the end of the season, returning to his previous club.
Hapoel Beersheba was also busy on Tuesday, but ended the day empty handed. Beersheba was on the verge of bringing in Israel national team goalkeeper Ofir Martziano from Ashdod SC and Nigerian Anthony Nwakaeme from Hapoel Ra’anana, only for both deals to fall through at the last moment as it was unwilling to part with certain players from its squad to complete the transfers.
“When taking into consideration our varied squad and the balance we currently have in the dressing room, we decided not to go ahead with these transfers,” a Beersheba press release read. “We believe in the team and the players and that is why we were unwilling to part with certain players who were wanted by the other clubs.”