Zahavi finalizes move to PSV Eindhoven

Israel’s 33-year-old star takes his scoring prowess to the Netherlands after four years in China

A SKILLED scorer at every level, Eran Zahavi holds the Israeli record for goals in consecutive appearances when he scored in 18 straight games in 2014 while on Maccabi Tel Aviv (photo credit: REUTERS)
A SKILLED scorer at every level, Eran Zahavi holds the Israeli record for goals in consecutive appearances when he scored in 18 straight games in 2014 while on Maccabi Tel Aviv
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli soccer superstar Eran Zahavi moved from Chinese club Guangzhou R&F to Netherlands stalwart PSV Eindhoven this week to continue his career.
After four seasons of obliterating goal-scoring records in the Chinese Super League, the 33-year-old striker decided to finally give Europe one more shot after a very short spell in 2011-13 with Palermo.
Zahavi, who began his professional career with Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2006, was a mainstay for the Reds in helping them to a league title, two State Cups and a trip to the Champions League group stage.
The Rishon Lezion native appeared in 151 games across all competitions for Hapoel and scored 42 goals. His domestic success led him to Italy and an unsuccessful move to Palermo, where he made only 26 appearances and scored two goals in a year-and-a-half of service.
Following his time at Palermo, Maccabi Tel Aviv sports director Jordi Cruyff pulled off a shock move and lured back the star to Bloomfield Stadium, where he smashed Israeli record after record, scoring 127 goals in only 168 games.
Zahavi won three Israel Premier League titles in a row between 2013 and 2015 while leading Maccabi to a domestic treble in 2015 and another trip to the Champions League group stage.
Zahavi then took his talents to China in 2016, where he played in 117 games, scored 103 markers and was named the league’s most valuable player in 2017 while leading the league in scoring in both 2017 and 2018.
In addition to his stellar statistics in China, his annual salary was reportedly over $10 million, making him the highest-paid Israeli player ever.
However, one downside to his time with Guangzhou was that his team never finished better than fifth place and didn’t win any type of trophy, which certainly prompted his latest move.
“I missed competing for titles,” said Zahavi after signing a two-year deal with the Dutch outfit. I’ve had a great time in China, but I want to show my skills one more time in Europe. This is a unique opportunity for me. PSV wants to win trophies and play attacking football. I am looking forward to the challenge of playing in the Netherlands.”
“I’m already 33 years old and when I was talking to my wife about my new adventure I said that for me when I have these feelings in my heart that I am excited then I know that I made the right decision. I can’t wait to begin preparing with my new teammates. I think that the club has very talented players and my expectations are really high.”
PSV Director of Football John de Jong knows exactly what Zahavi can do for his club and that’s put the ball in the goal.
“Eran cannot stop scoring goals,” noted de Jong. “He is a scoring machine who is looking to add experience to the young PSV squad.”
Michael Bell, editor of Football-Oranje, was excited about the prospect of Zahavi filling the net with goals galore.
“I have high hopes for his signing and think he can be a massive success,” wrote Bell. “He may be a bit older, but his goal-scoring record is great. I think he could be a perfect partner for the more mobile Donyell Malen and I can see him scoring a lot of goals in the Eredivisie because PSV create[s] a lot of chances.”
“Eran Zahavi is a proven goal-scorer and among the youngsters of PSV will be a welcome addition,” explained Rik Elfrink from the local news outlet in Holland, Eindhovens Dagblad. “He is very experienced and the team has missed a goal-getter who has played a lot of international games.”
In soccer, scoring goals is definitely the name of the game and Zahavi knows full well that is one reason why he made the move to Eindhoven.
“PSV was an exciting choice for me and it matches my qualities,” said the Israeli veteran. “I am familiar with the coach [Roger Schmidt] from when he was with Beijing and I know his philosophy. So it was a clear decision. As for my qualities, it’s to score goals.”
Schmidt may have been one of the biggest factors in Zahavi’s arrival in Holland. The bench boss had been in charge of Beijing Guoan while the Israeli was with Guangzhou and Schmidt had been enthralled with Zahavi from the first moment he laid his eyes on him, even trying to pry him free and have him make the move to northern China.
“He’s a big part as to why I chose PSV,” said Zahavi. “But I can tell you from the first conversations with the club I was really impressed as to how professional the team was as well as the attitude which was very important to me. They gave me the confidence that they all wanted me, not just the coach. I was really convinced that this was the right place to be at this time and I hope that my decision will be justified.”
“Roger Schmidt knows Zahavi from China and will know he is a player who can score goals in the Dutch league too,” said Elfrink. “Eran Zahavi knows what to do after so many years of playing top football.”
Bell also felt that there was a comfort level that had already existed before Zahavi decided to join PSV and that he would be a perfect fit into the coaches system.
“He knows him from his time abroad and will use him at the front in his 4-2-2-2 formation alongside Malen up front. Malen will use his pace, while Zahavi will be more of a typical center-forward.”
The bottom line is that Zahavi has performed magnificently at almost every stop in his illustrious career and PSV won’t be any different in that regard. With his confidence, drive and all-around work ethic, the Sabra will also be a hit with his new fans, which are allowed in limited numbers into the stadiums in Holland despite COVID-19.
 “The fans are excited,” said Elfrink. “Although some also asked if he is not too old to be at the top at 33 years of age. In the Dutch league, it is pretty normal that strikers are between 18 and 23 years. But now that all the fans have seen Eran Zahavi, most are convinced he will impact positively on PSV.”
Bell feels that this is a perfect match made in heaven for everyone involved.
“I think there is excitement at his arrival because his goal scoring record in his career is so good. Fans can’t wait to see how he does!”
Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel sports adventures for tourists and residents (www.sportsrabbi.com). Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or feel free to contact the Sports Rabbi at [email protected]